Category Archives: ADVENTURES IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST

Our travel adventures in the Pacific Northwest USA

Our Top Food Experiences From Our Adventures

Our top food experiences from our adventures 2008-2015: Our most memorable meals from our travels around the world (so far).

10. The Winding Stair in Dublin, Ireland

Given that everything in Ireland is expensive, we couldn’t eat out at many upscale restaurants on our two-week trip. The Winding Stair was our one big splurge in Ireland, and it was worth it. It is located above an affiliated book store (one of the oldest independent book stores in Dublin) overlooking the River Liffey. It was cute, quiet, and romantic. The food is fresh, organic, and locally sourced.  If you’re in Dublin looking for a fantastic Irish meal with ambiance, this is a great little spot. Definitely one of our top food experiences in Ireland.

River Liffey, Dublin
River Liffey, Dublin
Winding Stair Dublin Ireland top food experiences
Duck breast with fingerling potatoes at The Winding Stair
Winding Stair Dublin Ireland top food experiences
Pork loin at the winding stair

9. Kèköldi Indigenous family farm, Costa Rica

Our friends Sarah and Julio took us to a farm owned by the indigenous Kèköldi people near Cahuita, Costa Rica. Our host gave us a tour through the rain forest surrounding his home and told us about all the medicinal plants and foods found in the area that are used by his family. Afterward, we were served a typical lunch of chicken, plantains breadfruit, and sweet potatoes served in banana leaves, which are used as plates and bowls. The chicken was some of the best we’d ever had and it was a very interesting and educational day. If you are interested in taking this tour, you can book it through Sarah and Julio’s tour company, www.boyerotours.com.

Kekoldi indigenous tour costa rica top food experiences
Lunch at the Kèköldi farm: Chicken, breadfruit, plantains, and sweet potato
Kekoldi village costa rica top food experiences
Julio and our host at the Kèköldi farm, Costa Rica

8. Argentinian cooking at Tierras Del Sol, Tulum, Mexico

When we were in Tulum, Mexico in 2009, we stayed at a little place on the beach called Tierras Del Sol (unfortunately, it looks like it is now closed). The beach was the best we’ve ever seen in our travels to the tropics, and because it was the low season we usually had it all to ourselves.

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Tulum Beach

It was located at the very end of the Boca Paila Rd, about 12 miles from the center of town and we had no car. They served dinner and breakfast, and the manager/cook was from Argentina and cooked amazing food every night. It was pretty much the same menu: three salads, grilled vegetables, and then grilled meat or fish with an Argentinian marinade. We stayed for four nights, and ate three dinners there it was so good. Each night the grilled meat or fish was whatever looked fresh at the market that day. One night we ventured further down the road to a neighboring bungalow resort and ate at their restaurant, but the food was small, pretentious, and not nearly as good.

Simple and delicious, served with a side of peace and quiet, the warm sea air, and plenty of beer and margaritas. It was one of our top food experiences for sure.

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Top food experiences –Tierras Del Sol restaurant/lounge area

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Tulum-Mexico-top-food-experiences (12)

tulum-mexico top food experiences

7. Kuma’s Corner, Chicago

Paddy maintains that one of the best burgers he has ever had (perhaps THE best burger he has ever had) was at Kuma’s Corner while we were visiting a friend in Chicago in 2008. Located in the Avondale neighborhood, Kuma’s Corner is all about two things: amazing burgers and heavy metal. And burgers named after heavy metal. What more could you want?

It sounds gimmicky, but the real rock star here is the food. Most of the burgers are served on pretzel buns, and really are in a league of their own. If you go to Chicago, don’t miss Kuma’s.

Kumas Corner Chicago top food experiences
At Kuma’s Corner, Chicago
Kumas Corner Chicago top food experiences
The “Slayer” burger at Kuma’s Corner. Served with ANGER!

 

6. The Jam Cafe, Victoria B.C. Canada

We spent a holiday weekend in Victoria BC in 2014, and we were surprised to find so much great food! It was tough to choose which one of our meals that weekend would wind up on our top food experiences list, but we decided it must be the Jam Cafe. We had pulled pork pancakes (large enough to feed a family of four) and the fried chicken benedict and shared. The bloody marys were also fabulous and are served with a piece of candied bacon and a seasoned salt rim. It was one of the best breakfasts we’ve ever had, and worth the 20 minute wait in line.

A close second of our top food experiences in Victoria: Red Fish Blue Fish. It was almost a coin toss.

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The Jam Cafe, Victoria B.C.
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Bloody Mary at the Jam Cafe with candied bacon
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Pulled Pork pancakes with jalepeno sour cream and pickled cabbage
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Fried chicken benedict with roasted corn salsa

5. Atchafalaya, New Orleans

Atchafalaya New Orleans
Atchafalaya restaurant–brunch highly recommended!

We spent Halloween 2015 in New Orleans, which I’m sure you know is home to some pretty spectacular cuisine. The winner from this trip was definitely brunch at Atchafalaya in the Garden District. They had a delicious-looking breakfast cocktail list, but we couldn’t pass up the bloody mary bar where you can build your own bloody mary from two different types of mixes, and an array of hot sauces and house pickled veggies to go with it. The bartender gives you a glass with your choice of vodka and you make it however you want it.

Atchafalaya bloody mary bar New Orleans
Atchafalaya bloody mary bar
Atchafalaya bloody mary bar New Orleans
Atchafalaya bloody mary bar-green tomato bloody marys!

The breakfast menu made for a tough decision. I eventually decided on the duck hash with blackberries, mangos, duck confit, potatoes, hollandaise sauce, and bacon vinigarette. Paddy had the shrimp and cream cheese grits with smoked tomatoes and andouille sausage. Our friends tried the fried chicken and biscuits and gravy, the bananas foster french toast, and the truffled eggs with spinach. It was all amazing. They also serve dinner, and we will definitely be back on our next visit to NOLA.

Chicken and biscuits with sausage gravy at Atchafalaya New Orleans
Chicken and biscuits with sausage gravy at Atchafalaya
Duck confit hash at Atchafalaya in the Garden District
Duck confit hash at Atchafalaya in the Garden District
Shrimp with cream cheese grits at Actchafalaya New Orleans
Shrimp with cream cheese grits at Actchafalaya

4. Chiky Blu Restaurant in Bayahibe, Dominican Republic

On our first night in the small beach town of Bayahibe, Dominican Republic, we ventured into a little unassuming open-air beach restaurant with reasonable prices and ordered up some dinner. I had no idea going in that I would have the best whole fried fish I’d ever had that I still think about to this day. It was simple, but full of flavor, and very crispy without any greasiness. It came with rosemary fried potatoes on a bed of lettuce with three tomato slices on top and a lime wedge.

Paddy had gnocchi which was also excellent. We went back for dinner again on our last night and had the pizza which was also good, but I still think about that fried fish. I haven’t had one live up to that one since.

Chiky Blue Bayahibe, Dominican Republic
Chiky Blu Bayahibe, Dominican Republic
Chiky Blue Bayahibe, Dominican Republic
Chiky Blu Bayahibe, Dominican Republic
Chiky Blue Bayahibe, Dominican Republic
Chiky Blu Bayahibe, Dominican Republic
Fried fish chiky blu bayahibe
Best fried fish I’ve ever had at Chiky Blu

3. Hotel La Pirogue, Taha’a, French Polynesia

We spent our honeymoon in French Polynesia, traveling to Tahiti, Taha’a, and Bora Bora. On Taha’a we stayed on a remote motu island off the coast of the main island of Taha’a at a little resort called Hotel La Pirogue. It was completely remote, so we did the breakfast and dinner meal plan. Breakfast was standard European continental style, with muesli, yogurt, fruit, and baguettes with cheese and ham cold cuts.

hotel la pirogue tahaa
View from our bungalow porch at Hotel La Pirogue on the Taha’a motu

Dinner, however was unexpectedly some of the best food we’ve ever had. The little resort was owned by a French couple who were very welcoming. The husband was an outstanding chef and cooked dinner for the guests while his wife waited tables. We could choose a starter, main course and dessert for dinner each night.

The fusion of French cuisine with local Polynesian ingredients like vanilla, breadfruit, spices, and local fish, and shellfish was innovative and unique. It was some of the best food we’ve ever had.

We spent our days reading books, swimming in the beach in front of our bungalow, kayaking around the lagoon, and day touring the island of Taha’a. At night we would stuff ourselves silly at the restaurant and waddle back to our bungalow to sit on our porch and drink wine in the moonlight. It was a great four days.

Coconut curry shrimp
Coconut curry shrimp
Duck breast
Duck breast
Grilled shrimp at Hotel La Pirogue
Grilled shrimp at Hotel La Pirogue
Seared Ahi tuna
Seared Ahi tuna
Rack of lamb at Hotel La Pirogue
Rack of lamb at Hotel La Pirogue

 

 2. Dill Restaurant in Reykjavik, Iceland

While in Reykjavik, Iceland in 2015, we had made reservations far in advance for Dill, which is arguably the best upscale dining restaurant in Iceland. Chef Gunnar Karl Gíslason takes Nordic cuisine to new and innovative levels, using local ingredients–much along the lines of the world-renowned restaurant Noma in Denmark.

Iceland-Dill
top food experiences –Dill Restaurant in Reykjavik, Iceland

Iceland 107

Iceland-Dill-Restaurant
top food experiences –Dill Restaurant in Reykjavik, Iceland

We may not ever be able to afford Noma ($300 per person for a seven course meal), but we were able to make room in our budget for Dill (much more reasonable at just under $100 per person for a seven course meal). Don’t get me wrong, it was really expensive, but worth it. In this culinary realm, food begins to cross from sustenance to art, bringing new flavors and textures and ideas to the dining experience that have not been done before.

Wine pairings with all seven courses were also offered at an additional $100 per person, but we stuck with one glass of champagne and one glass of red wine each. Our bill at the end was $250, which was slightly less than we had budgeted.

The meal came with four small amuse bouche starters and house-made sourdough rolls. It was a two-hour ordeal, and the most high-end culinary experience we’ve ever had. I hate rutabagas, and the rutabaga course with cream cheese foam, sweet and sour dill oil, and toasted millet was so delicious I almost licked the plate.

Dill Menu
Dill Menu
salt cod course dill restaurant reykjavik
Salt cod course
scallop tartare dill restaurant reykjavik
Scallop tartare course
Iceland-Dill-Restaurant
Pork belly course with kale and black garlic
Dill-Restaurant
Rutabaga course with cream cheese, sweet and sour dill oil, and toasted millet
Dill-Restaurant-2
Icelandic Skyr with celery sorbet and roasted oats

Nothing could really top that dining experience in Iceland, but I will give the lobster soup at Salthusid Restaurant in Grindavik a second prize.

 

1. Farm Pu Nim (Softshell Crab Farm) in Chanthaburi, Thailand

I don’t know where this is or how you get to it, but try to find out if you find yourself in the Chanthaburi province of Thailand. Farm Pu Nim (translates to “softshell crab farm”) was host to the number one of all our top food experiences in our travels to date.

We were visiting a Thai friend of mine and her family in Chanthaburi, Thailand, and they wanted to take us to lunch here. We drove a little ways outside of Chanthaburi town, and then parked and got in a small boat ferrying customers to the restaurant.

Soft Shell Crab Farm restaurant in Chanthaburi, Thailand
top food experiences –Soft Shell Crab Farm restaurant in Chanthaburi, Thailand

It was busy with Thai tourists and locals (no westerners that I saw), and our friend said it is somewhere that they take visitors or go to on special occasions. They ordered a bunch of dishes for us all to share.

The restaurant kitchen was visible from the path to the bathroom, and was totally chaotic. Piles of sea shells, plastic tubs, and tanks of fish and crabs were everywhere.

Soft Shell Crab Farm restaurant in Chanthaburi, Thailand
The kitchen–Soft Shell Crab Farm restaurant in Chanthaburi, Thailand
Soft Shell Crab Farm restaurant in Chanthaburi, Thailand
The kitchen–Soft Shell Crab Farm restaurant in Chanthaburi, Thailand

Soft Shell Crab Farm restaurant in Chanthaburi, Thailand

Our food arrived in courses, and it was a seafood feast. The food was amazing, and there was so much that we couldn’t finish it all. Oysters, shrimp, squid, a spicy fish soup, fried soft shell crab, soft shell crab in curry, and a whole fried fish with garlic. We’d never seen such a spread.

Soft Shell Crab Farm restaurant in Chanthaburi, Thailand
fried soft shell crab

Soft Shell Crab Farm restaurant in Chanthaburi, Thailand

Soft Shell Crab Farm restaurant in Chanthaburi, Thailand

Shellfish Farm in Chanthaburi Thailand
Shellfish Farm in Chanthaburi Thailand

Soft Shell Crab Farm restaurant in Chanthaburi, Thailand

Soft Shell Crab Farm restaurant in Chanthaburi, Thailand
Oysters

We squabbled over the bill at the end– we insisted on paying as they were taking us around Chanthaburi and being fabulous hosts, and after some arguing we were allowed to pay. For seven people (albeit two were small children), the total for all that food and a couple beers was $45.

A large part of what makes this number one of our top food experiences was the amazing food, but another part was being able to share in something uniquely Thai that our friends wanted to share with us. We would have never found that place on our own, and being able to share it with a long lost friend from my exchange student days and her family was very special.

 

Food is a huge part of our travels, and we hope to add many more meals to this list in the future. A meal doesn’t have to be expensive to be amazing, it just needs to be made with love and either talent or a good recipe. Stay tuned for more of our top food experiences in the future.

 

 

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Orcas Island, Washington 2015

Our quick weekend getaway to Orcas Island, WA: Rosario Resort and the Moran Mansion, farmers market, great food, and beautiful island scenery.

 

Paddy and I are originally from San Juan Island, a neighboring island to Orcas Island in the San Juan archipelago. Even though we grew up close by, we have really only been to Orcas Island a handful of times in our lives.

While most tourists bypass the other islands and head straight to Friday Harbor and San Juan Island, Orcas Island is not to be overlooked. It is geographically the largest of the four main San Juan Islands, and has some of the most stunning scenery combined with small town laid-back island life.

Day 1:

We made our ferry reservations in advance, and caught the 6:30 PM sailing on Friday from Anacortes. We left Seattle at 3:30 and traffic wasn’t too bad. We arrived the Anacortes ferry terminal within about two hours. We grabbed a snack at the little Cheesecake Cafe ferry terminal kiosk and soon were loaded onto the boat heading to Orcas Island.

*Note: Ferry reservations strongly recommended for Friday evening sailings, and are an absolute must in the summertime.

There was a spectacular fall sunset on the way, and the weather was weirdly warm despite the strong October breeze.

sunset from ferry to orcas Island
Sunset seen from the ferry to Orcas Island

sunset from ferry to orcas Island

We arrived Orcas Island starving, and followed the train of cars through the dark about 15 minutes into the main town of Eastsound in the middle of the island. After a quick stop at the Island Market for beer, wine, and some light breakfast items for the morning, we walked next door to the Lower Tavern for dinner.

*Note: The grocery stores close around 8:00 to 9:00 PM, so be sure to get your snacks and beverages early.

The Lower Tavern is your basic local bar with a variety of burgers and pub grub. There is a pool table, neon beer signs, good beer selection, and locals a plenty. Service was good, and the food was your average pub fare. This is one of the less-expensive places to eat on Orcas Island if you are looking for somewhere casual.

lower tavern eastsound orcas island
Crispy chicken burger and fries at the Lower Tavern in Eastsound
lower tavern eastsound orcas island
Lower Tavern, Eastsound

After dinner, we drove another 15 minutes east and then south to Rosario Resort, one of the oldest hotels on Orcas Island. Rosario is the 40 acre former estate of Seattle shipbuilder and mayor Robert Moran, who built his mansion here over 100 years ago. The mansion is now the main building at Rosario, hosting a spa, bar and restaurant, and a museum of the upper floors of the Moran mansion.

Surprisingly, Rosario had the best priced room I could find on Orcas Island. We had reserved the least expensive room, a hillside king at $120/night.  It was a bit far from the main mansion, down the road and up a steep hill. The room was nice, and included cable TV, a fridge, microwave, coffee maker, and a nice balcony overlooking the bay. We were visiting in October, and the price of the room drops further in the winter season to $99/night (when I last checked, anyway). The only complaint we had is that the water pressure in the shower was pretty low. Other than that it was a very nice room.

Rosario hillside king room Orcas Island
Rosario hillside king room
Rosario hillside king room Orcas Island
Rosario hillside king room

Rosario hillside king room Orcas Island

 

Day 2:

We slept in the next morning, enjoying the view from our room and the sound of the waves on the shore below. We had coffee and snacks we had bought the night before in our room for a light breakfast, and then headed down to the Mansion to check out the museum.

Rosario Moran Mansion Orcas Island

The upstairs floors of the Moran Mansion are preserved as a historical museum of the Moran family. There is the main music room in the middle, with a two story pipe organ. I read that every Saturday you can come hear an organist play the organ and then have access to the library rooms on the third floor mezzanine, which are otherwise closed to the public.

The museum has a lot of the original furniture from the Moran family, as well as photos of the Moran family, models of Robert Moran’s ships that he built, and other early turn of the century artifacts.

Rosario Moran Mansion Orcas Island
Front of the Moran Mansion

Rosario Resort also has two outdoor pools for the summer season, including one for adults at the main mansion and a larger one for families down by the harbor.

Rosario Resort adult pool Orcas Island
Adult pool at the Moran Mansion
Rosario Resort Orcas Island
The hotel rooms from across the bay as viewed from the mansion

After touring the museum, we headed back to the town of Eastsound for the Orcas Island farmer’s market. In the fall it is located indoors at the Oddfellows Hall on Saturdays from 11:00 to 2:00.

The farmers market had lots of locally farmed fruits and vegetables, hand crafted jewelry, felted hats, and other gifts. Island made foods such as sausages, chocolates, baked goods, pasta, coffee, and jams were also available for sale. I scraped together some cash to purchase some huge and amazing-looking gloves of garlic from the farmer with the sausage (his credit card square wasn’t working on his phone). Bringing cash is recommended.

Paddy tasted a bunch of jams from Girl Meets Dirt at the table next door and said they were all delicious. He bought her peach chamomile preserves and miraculously got his card to swipe on her phone square. With flavors like rhubarb lavender, pear balsamic, and fig basil it was difficult to choose.

I also recommend Island Thyme bath and cosmetic products–especially the lip balms and the bar soaps. My Mom on San Juan Island often puts them in my Christmas stocking. I’m a lip balm and lip gloss junkie, and theirs is one of my favorites.

Girl Meets Dirt peach chamomile preserves from the farmer's market orcas island
Girl Meets Dirt peach chamomile preserves from the farmer’s market

If you can’t make it to the farmers market and still want some preserves or other locally made products, you can visit the Orcas Island Food Co-Op which is open daily in East Sound.

Eastsound Orcas Island
Eastsound, Orcas Island–view from Oddfellows Hall farmers market

After the farmers market we were hungry, so we decided to have lunch at Rose’s Bakery & Cafe in Eastsound. It was a nice little spot and the food was good, although a bit overpriced for what you got. Our sandwiches were $16.00 each, Paddy’s mole chicken sandwich came with about two tablespoons of coleslaw and my fried green tomato BLT came with about two tablespoons of potato salad. I know that things are more expensive in the islands, but cabbage and potatoes aren’t high-end ingredients. It seems that the side could have been at least a half cup’s worth. When we left Paddy was still hungry. Not exactly what you want to feel like after spending $16.00 on a sandwich. Good quality, but not sure if we’ll be back based on the prices.

Fried green tomato BLT at Rose's Bakery Cafe Orcas Island
Fried green tomato BLT at Rose’s Bakery Cafe
Mole chicken sandwich at Rose's Bakery Cafe
Mole chicken sandwich at Rose’s Bakery Cafe

After lunch we headed east towards Mt. Constitution in Moran State Park.  Moran State Park is host to several hiking trails, a campground, and two large lakes–one with a nice swim beach in the summertime. The last time we were on Orcas Island was about 12 years ago in October, and we tried to go up to the top of Mt Constitution to see the view from the tower but about three quarters of the way up the mountain we found ourselves in a dense fog prohibiting any kind of view whatsoever.

Moran State Park Orcas Island
Moran State Park entrance

Unfortunately, we found ourselves in the same situation again as we ascended the mountain. We did enjoy the spooky mist and forest views, however.

Foggy road to Mt Constitution
Foggy road to Mt Constitution

When we neared the top, instead of this:

Mt Constitution Moran State Park
View from Mt Constitution on a clear day. Image from http://moranstatepark.com/mount-constitution/

We got this:

Orcas-Island 236

*Note: Go to Mt. Constitution on sunny days only if you want to see the view. Also, be sure to have your Discover Pass with you for parking.

The rain was getting heavier, and we kind of felt like hibernating. We made a quick stop in Eastsound for an afternoon snack at Brown Bear Baking. After surveying several delectable items including chocolate croissants as big as my face, I selected a chocolate muffin for Paddy and I to share. It was delicious–very chocolatey with a nice crunchy top. We headed back to the room for some R&R.

Brown Bear Baking in Eastsound
Brown Bear Baking in Eastsound
chocolate muffins at Brown Bear Baking in Eastsound
Chocolate muffins at Brown Bear Baking in Eastsound

The sun broke through the clouds around 4:30 as we were watching the tail end of Footloose on TV. (Side note curiosity–how long did it take for Kevin Bacon to stop finding  glitter everywhere after filming the end dance scene?)

We were getting hungry and were trying to decide where to go for dinner. We decided on the Inn at Ship Bay just east of Eastsound. We called to find out if we needed reservations and were informed that they were completely booked for the evening but there were some spots at the bar open at the moment. We jumped in the car and snagged a couple of the last spots at the cozy little bar with a view of the sound.

Dinner was outstanding. It was a splurge, but well worth it. I ordered the Apple Pye cocktail, with apple liquer, bay leaf, vodka, and ginger beer. It was fall in a glass, and very strong.

inn at ship bay apple pye cocktail orcas island
Apple Pye cocktail

For dinner, we started with the Mangalitsa pork belly appetizer and the tomato goat cheese tart. Both were fabulous. The pork belly was nice and crispy on the outside and the quince and apple puree complimented it nicely.

For entrees I had the weathervane scallops with the sprouted lentil salad, and Paddy had the sirloin steak. We also couldn’t pass up on dessert–the goat cheese bourbon cheesecake with apples. It was a perfect fall meal, and we would recommend Inn at Ship Bay highly for dinner.

Mangalitsa pork belly with quince and apple puree
Mangalitsa pork belly with quince and apple puree
Goat cheese and tomato tart with arugula salad
Goat cheese and tomato tart with arugula salad
Sirloin steak Inn at Ship Bay Orcas island
Sirloin steak
Weathervane scallops with citrus risotto, sprouted lentil salad, and lemon aoli
Weathervane scallops with citrus risotto, sprouted lentil salad, and lemon aoli
Goat cheese apple bourbon cheesecake
Goat cheese apple bourbon cheesecake

After dinner, we headed back to Rosario. Paddy wanted to have a drink at the Mansion bar, and I wanted to go soak in the hot tub in the basement spa.

I had stayed here at Rosario once when I was a kid with my parents in the 1980’s. The indoor pool back then was a big, white, milky, creepy experience with pipes going across the room over the pool. It kind of felt like being in the belly of a flooded ship.

I was pleased to see that they had re-done the entire pool and that it was much nicer looking. There was also a sauna.

Rosario Resort indoor pool at the spa
Rosario Resort indoor pool at the spa

I got a locker padlock and a towel from the front desk lady in the gift shop area at the spa entrance, and made my way back to the little changing rooms and lockers. The changing rooms are all individual and unisex and just outside the main pool area. One thing that I’m pretty sure hadn’t changed since the 1980’s was the dingy green carpet in the changing room area and hallway that smelled like about 30 years worth of chlorine that had dripped off of hundreds of wet bathers festering away in it’s fibers. I have no idea why this area is carpeted, and is something that they should probably address.

Around the corner from the small wall of lockers is the hall leading to the outdoor adult pool and a very creepy exercise room. If there is one area that is haunted in this 100+ year old mansion, it is the exercise room. I am sure of it.

I found the womens showers and rinsed off, then climbed into the jacuzzi tub. The tub was huge and no one was in it, which was very nice. It was heavily chorinated, however. I smelled like chlorine the rest of the night, despite rinsing off afterward. If you have sensitive skin, you might want to evaluate the chlorine levels before getting in.

Rosario Resort hot tub in the spa
Rosario Resort hot tub in the spa

After I changed I found Paddy at the Mansion bar, which was hoppin’ busy. There was live music and a roaring fire in the fireplace. We headed back to the room to relax and watch a movie.

Rosario Resort mansion at night
Rosario Resort mansion at night

 

Day 3:

Sunday morning brought beautiful rays of sunshine. It was a shame we didn’t have time to go up to Mt. Constitution to take in the view before catching the ferry, but we had reservations for the 8:45 sailing back to Anacortes.

We got in line for the ferry about half an hour before boarding, and walked down the hill to the little Orcas Village Store in search of coffee and sustenance.

Orcas Village Store at the ferry landing orcas island
Orcas Village Store at the ferry landing

We ordered some espresso at their coffee/deli counter and some surprisingly delicious chipotle bacon breakfast burritos sitting pre-made in their warm food cabinet near the counter. There were also pastries, bagels with salmon cream cheese and other deli items for purchase. The breakfast burritos were really good.

Soon enough the ferry rounded the corner and we were loaded onto the boat, which made stops at Shaw and Lopez Islands as well.

Orcas Island ferry
Ferry coming into dock
Orcas Island village from ferry
View of Orcas Village landing from the ferry
Cars loading onto the ferry on Orcas Island
Cars loading onto the ferry on Orcas Island

It was a nice little weekend getaway. When we come back to visit Orcas Island again, we’d like to see a bit more of the island itself–hiking in Moran State Park, Cascade Falls, Deer Harbor, and Doe Bay. We’ll be back.

 

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases from product links on this site.

Halloween in Seattle

If you are spending Halloween in Seattle, there are a lot of options for a spooky good time. Here are our recommendations for Halloween fun in the Emerald City:

 

Pumpkin Patch and Cider Tasting

If you are spending Halloween in Seattle have the means and enthusiasm to carve a pumpkin, one of our favorite October day trips is to Dr Maze’s pumpkin farm in nearby Redmond, WA. It has all the standard things a pumpkin patch should have–a corn maze, kettle corn, fruits and veggies for sale, hot apple cider, and a pumpkin patch where you can pick your own pumpkin. The reason we like this pumpkin patch the most is the fact that it is just down the road from the Minea Farm, a working farm with a 100 + year old cider press still in action. Buy a cup of hot cider and watch the cider press from the viewing window, or buy a gallon of fresh pressed organic cider to take home. They also sell apples, eggs, jams and jellies, honey, and other things made on their farm. Minea Farm is located at 13404 Woodinville Redmond Rd NE, Redmond, WA.

halloween in seattle pumpkin patch
Picking pumpkins at Dr Maze’s pumpkin farm in Redmond

 

Horror Movie Exhibit

The EMP at the Seattle Center has an exhibit that has been running for a couple years (not sure how long it will run for) called “Can’t Look Away: The Lure of the Horror Film.”  See real iconic horror movie props such as the facehugger from Alien, the axe from The Shining, and the script from Night of the Living Dead. I haven’t been to this exhibit yet but hope to before it goes away.

The EMP is also a good place to check for events. This year they are doing a 90’s zombie prom on October 17th. You can check their calendar for events here.

Halloween in seattle horror film
Can’t Look Away: The Lure of the Horror Film at the EMP Museum. Image from www.empmuseum.org

Super Scary Haunted House

One of the longest running Haunted Houses in Seattle is the Kube 93 Haunted House in the Georgetown neighborhood just south of downtown. I actually haven’t been to this since I was a teenager, but I keep meaning to go again. It’s a little pricey at $23 per adult, but they really go all out. They run the haunted house all through the month of October and even the last weekend of September.

Kube 93 Haunted House
Kube 93 Haunted House
Kube 93 Haunted House
Kube 93 Haunted House image from http://www.kube93.com/

 

Haunted Seattle Ghost Tours

Spooked in Seattle offers ghost tours of Seattle, including one ghost tour a month on the last Friday of each month in the Seattle underground, the part of old town Seattle that the current city was built on top of after the great fire of 1889. We’ve been on the regular Seattle Underground Tour, and it was spooky on its own without looking for ghosts. We’ve been on Spooked in Seattle’s regular city walking tour where they take you around Pioneer Square and downtown and tell you about reported ghost sightings in the historical part of the city. If you are interested in Seattle’s history and want a little spooky Halloween in Seattle fun, this is a good way to get a little of both.

halloween in seattle

Spooky Burlesque Shows

If you like dinner theater, burlesque shows, and Tim Burton, then you are in luck. The Triple Door downtown hosts a burlesque-style performance of the Nightmare Before Christmas, called This is Halloween every year. I’ve been to a few shows at The Triple Door, and this is dinner theater at its best. Food from the attached Wild Ginger restaurant is served prior to and during the show and drink service is available throughout. I saw the show with some friends two years ago as a girls’ night out and it was great fun. Get your tickets in advance, especially for weekend shows.

Halloween in Seattle Triple Door
This is Halloween show at the Triple Door, Seattle
Halloween in Seattle Triple Door
This is Halloween show at the Triple Door, Seattle
Halloween in Seattle Triple Door
This is Halloween show at the Triple Door, Seattle
Halloween in Seattle Triple Door
This is Halloween show at the Triple Door, Seattle

Seattle’s top spot for year round Burlesque shows is The Can Can downtown (right next to the entrance to the Pike Place Market). They love to do theme shows, and last year I went to a Halloween burlesque show called “Zombie Cheerleaders From Hell.” It appears that they are running it again this year. The title is a little misleading, (I don’t remember any zombie cheerleaders), but it was full of classic and devilishly spooky song and dance numbers, pasties, and humor. I did notice that their ticket prices have gone up a bit–the $40 ticket price used to include a cocktail credit but it appears that it is now just admission. The performers are great and the shows I’ve seen have always been fabulous, so if you have the dough and want to see a unique little part of Halloween in Seattle, I’d recommend it.

halloween in seattle
Image from http://www.thecancan.com/

Other good places to check for burlesque shows are the Columbia City Theater in Columbia City, and The Jewelbox Theater at the Rendezvous in Belltown. I checked their calendars for this October and both of them seem to be doing a Rocky Horror theme burlesque show of some kind, and The Jewelbox Theater has a “pole dancing Halloween recital”. I don’t know what all of those shows entail, but I’m sure whatever they are they will be at entertaining at minimum.

The Rocky Horror Pastie Show at Columbia City Theater
The Rocky Horror Pastie Show at Columbia City Theater 10/30/15

 Creepy Circus Show and Dance Party

One of the best Halloween events I’ve been to over Halloween in Seattle is the Emerald City Trapeze annual event Carnevolar. Hosted at the Emerald City Aerialdome in Sodo, they usually do 2-3 shows over Halloween weekend. The evening starts with a trapeze act, followed by a stage show including dancing, aerialist acts, and other circus performances. Every Carnevolar has a different theme. I’ve been to the Vampyre Circus and The Haunting. Last year I think it was Funhouse, this year it is The Funeral.

halloween in seattle carnevolar
Watching the flying vampires at Carnevolar
carnevolar halloween in seattle
Image by J Boyer Photography
halloween in Seattle Carnevolar
Carnevolar: The Haunting. Image by J Boyer Photography

After the performance, a DJ spins into the wee hours of the morning and the whole place becomes a dance party. Costumes are strongly encouraged, and from the two times I’ve gone people get very into the costumes here. Don’t be the boring lameass without a costume.

halloween in seattle carnevolar
Costumed attendees at Carnevolar

halloween in Seattle Carnevolar

Psycho at the Symphony

If you’re up for something spooky but a little more low-key on Halloween night, The Seattle Symphony at Benaroya Hall downtown does a live performance of the score to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho along with the movie.

Psycho at Seattle Symphony Halloween in Seattle
Image from www.seattlesymphony.org

Halloween Night Fun in the City

Lastly, of course you can always spend Halloween in Seattle out on the town. Every bar in the city will have some sort of Halloween party going on, but if you really want to be at the heart of the action, the Pike/Pine corridor on Capitol Hill is the place to go. It will be busy, so go early if you want to snag a spot to sit and people watch, or go later and wait in lines and bar crawl like everyone else. One year when Halloween was on a Friday, we went to Linda’s early at 9:00 and snagged a booth. We had the intention of moving on to other bars, but as Linda’s became more and more packed our booth started looking a more and more appealing to stay in. The entertainment pretty much came to us–it was an endless parade of costumes.

Whatever neighborhood you end up in, finding booze and people in costumes shouldn’t be too difficult.

Halloween 2014 535

Halloween 2014 533

Whatever you decide to do, Halloween in Seattle is always a great time.  Don’t forget to bring a costume.

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Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases from product links on this site.


San Juan Island, Washington in the Summer

San Juan Island, Washington in the summer: American Camp, English Camp, hiking, restaurants, and the best places to catch the sunset (and maybe even whales)

 

The best way to have a great getaway to San Juan Island, WA in the summer is to plan way in advance. I know that’s hard for some people to do, but the further ahead you book your hotel and ferry reservation, the easier your trip will be. If you plan on camping at San Juan County Park, try to get your reservation as soon as it becomes available 90 days in advance. I would also recommend dinner reservations at any nicer restaurants a few days to a week in advance if possible. The major holiday weekends (Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day) are all going to be especially busy.

https://secureapps.wsdot.wa.gov/Ferries/Reservations/Vehicle/default.aspx
https://secureapps.wsdot.wa.gov/Ferries/Reservations/Vehicle/default.aspx

Friday Harbor/San Juan Island is the busiest of the San Juan Islands, and has the largest town. If you want to go when the weather is still nice but less crowded (no guarantee for nice weather in the Pacific Northwest, however), try going in May before Memorial Day weekend or in September after Labor Day Weekend. This is the shoulder season and while it is still popular with travelers, most of the families have kids in school then and take their vacations in July and August.

Friday Harbor ferry
Friday Harbor ferry
Friday Harbor, San Juan Island
Friday Harbor, San Juan Island

The best way to enjoy San Juan Island in the summer is to get out of town (don’t spend all your time in Friday Harbor). I strongly recommend bringing a car or a bicycle to see the island, as public transportation is limited to the tourist shuttle and doesn’t give you much freedom to get around the whole island. Mopeds and buggies can also be rented, just try to stay in the bike lanes as much as possible when you rent these, and be prepared for glares from locals if you rent the buggies. If cost is a factor, it will be less expensive to bring your car on the ferry than it will be to pay for parking on the other side and rent a moped. Bicycles can be rented at Island Bicycles if you want to bike the island and don’t have your own.

I won’t cover everything there is to do and see on San Juan Island, but I’ll give you my favorite summer adventures. Grab a picnic lunch at King’s Market in Friday Harbor or from the Market Chef Deli and head out for the day.

 

American Camp and the South End

There was once American and British occupancy on San Juan Island in the Civil War era, and someone shooting a pig on the island almost started a war between the US and Great Britain in 1859. There is a visitor’s center, and lots of details about early settlement of the island on plaques throughout the park.

The history and old military buildings are interesting, but the main reason to come to American Camp is the natural beauty. Miles of unspoiled beaches and golden grassy hills with ample amounts of primitive walking trails comprise the park. This is raw island beauty at its finest, and I used to spend hours walking the trails and coastline here as a kid.

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Griffin Bay, San Juan Island
cattle-point-lighthouse-american-camp-san-juan-island
American Camp, San Juan Island
American Camp beach San Juan Island
American Camp beach

American Camp San Juan Island

American Camp San Juan Island

American-Camp-San-Juan-Island

American-Camp-San-Juan-Island

Keep your eyes peeled for a glimpse of some of the local island foxes

San Juan Island fox
Island fox

The best beaches on San Juan Island are on the south end, most of them are in American Camp. South Beach is the largest, with ample parking and pit toilets. When heading through American Camp on Cattle Point Road, the South Beach road will be on the right and is well marked.

South Beach from Mt Finlayson
South Beach viewed  from Cattle Point Rd

Eagle Cove Beach is outside of American Camp park, and is the number one local favorite on San Juan Island. It is one of the only beaches on the island that is sandy, and the tide often goes out pretty far in the summertime. It does get extremely busy in the summer, I would recommend going earlier in the morning to get a good parking space and catch the lowest tides. You can find a tide schedule here. To get to Eagle Cove, take a right off of Cattle Point Road onto Eagle Cove Drive just before the American Camp sign. Follow the residential road and the small grassy parking lot will be on your left.

Eagle Cove Beach in the summer
Eagle Cove Beach at medium tide in the summer

If you want a sandy beach but want to avoid the crowds, Granny’s Cove in American Camp is another option. Park your car at the American Camp Visitor’s Center (take a right off of Cattle Point Road just after the American Camp sign) and follow the grass trail opposite the Officer’s Quarters down towards the coast. Veer to the right when you reach the coastal cliffs and the beach will be at the bottom of a short but steep trail down the cliff.

Granny's Cove San Juan Island
Granny’s Cove at high tide

The Cattle Point Lighthouse is another one of my favorite sights on the south end. The parking lot is managed by the state, so note that a discover pass is required to park there. The trail is short and easy, and the views are stunning. There is another little rocky beach near the parking lot as well.

Cattle Point Light House
Cattle Point Light House

Cattle Point Light House San Juan Island

cattle point lighthouse san juan island

Cattle Point Light House San Juan Island
Cattle Point Light House San Juan Island
Cattle Point Beach San Juan Island
Cattle Point Beach

 

 English Camp

On the north part of the island, you’ll find the historical remains of the British occupation of the island in the 1800’s. English Camp is very geographically different than American Camp. Instead of sweeping, wild coastal plains, you’ll find grassy fields and orchards, an English rose garden, a rocky beach home to many shellfish, and several woodsy hiking trails.

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English Camp, San Juan Island
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English Camp, San Juan Island
English-Camp-San-Juan-Island-summer (3)
English Camp, San Juan Island
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English Camp, San Juan Island
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English Camp, San Juan Island

There is a visitor’s center with historical information and videos, a decent sized parking lot, and pit toilets.

One of the best view hiking trails on San Juan Island is the Young Hill trail, departing from the English Camp parking lot. The hike is about a mile long uphill, gaining 600 ft of elevation to gorgeous views at the top. Locals call it Mt Young, but it really isn’t much of a mountain.

Young Hill San Juan Island
Young Hill view, image from http://blog.kenmoreair.com/index.php/2-san-juan-island-hikes/

 

Roche Harbor and the Mausoleum

Roche Harbor is the only other part of the island where you will find some sort of civilization outside of Friday Harbor (i.e. cell reception). There isn’t a lot there, but you’ll find a harbor, a cafe, grocery store, gift shop, old historic Hotel De Haro, and remains of John McMillan’s lime quarry. McMillan’s Restaurant in the Hotel De Haro is pricey but very good. The restaurant and hotel are rumored to be haunted. Paddy worked with a guy who used to work there and he has stories of lights and radios coming on by themselves when he was alone at night closing the kitchen in the winter. In the summer you’ll find Roche Harbor bustling with wealthy tourists, the harbor full of expensive yachts. It is pretty though, and worth checking out.

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Historic Hotel De Haro at Roche Harbor, San Juan Island
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Roche Harbor chapel, San Juan Island
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Roche Harbor, San Juan Island
Roche-Harbor-San-Juan-Island-Summer (5)
Roche Harbor, San Juan Island

 

If you peer over the edge of the docks you can often see the white sea anemones metridium senile growing on the docks.

metridium senile anemones
metridium senile anemones
metridium senile anemones
metridium senile anemones

 

Near the entrance to Roche Harbor next to the airfield is one of my all time favorite places to see on San Juan Island, The Mausoleum.

The Mausoleum was built by Roche Harbor founder John McMillan as a final resting place for his family.

Parking is in a gravel lot facing the private airfield, and the trail is just up the road a few feet. An easy half mile hike through the woods takes you past several old tombstones that are gated by wire and picket fences.

The Mausoleum Roche Harbor
The Mausoleum

A windy little path through the woods meets up with a wide path that leads to the Mausoleum, “Afterglow Vista.”

It is beautiful and eery at the same time. The structure contains symbolism of the Masonic order. Grecian style columns surround a marble and stone table on a stone platform with six chairs surrounding it. Each chair contains the ashes of a family member, as well as his secretary. One of the columns was built purposefully broken.

 

 The West Side

The West side of San Juan Island is the favorite place of many of my fellow island friends. It is most popular for watching the sunset from the rocky cliffs just off of West Side Road. There is parking at Lime Kiln State Park (Discover Pass required) and there are also a few pull off parking spots along West Side Road. There is a light house and the remains of old lime kilns from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. When I was growing up we always called it “Whale Watch Park” because the West Side is the best place to try and catch a glimpse of whales from the shore.  At dusk and dark you can see the flickering lights of Victoria, BC across the sound.

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Watching the sunset on the West Side
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Watching the sunset on the West Side
Sunset-westside-san-juan-island-summer
Watching the sunset on the West Side

 

Also on the West Side is Pelindaba Lavender Farm. If you like lavender and lavender products, this place is also worth a stop, if only to get a nice photo in front of the lavender fields. They also have a shop in town.

Pelindaba Lavender Farm
Pelindaba Lavender Farm

 

 

Go on a Whale Watch  Tour

If you can swing a reservation (book far in advance for summer), a small boat whale and wildlife tour with Maya’s Legacy Charters is well worth it. Maya’s Legacy has small boats only, so you aren’t on a crowded boat straining to see around all the other tourists. They  depart from the West Side at Snug Harbor. Leaving from the West Side where the whales are means you get more time with the whales and more out of your tour. They also have a naturalist on most of their tours to explain more about the wildlife. You can read about my recent tour with Maya’s Legacy Charters here.

Kayak tours are also a great way to get out on the water and see some marine life. You can book a tour at www.Sea-Quest-Kayak.com or www.CrystalSeas.com.

Photo from www.legacycharters.org
Orca whale breaching Photo from http://sanjuanislandwhalewatch.com/
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Sea Lions
whale-watching-in-the-san-juan-islands 130
Sea Lions
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Humpback whale
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Humpback whale

 

Where to Eat

My two favorite places for a nice dinner on San Juan Island are the Duck Soup Inn (about 4 miles north of Friday Harbor off of Roche Harbor Road) and the Backdoor Kitchen in Friday Harbor. Both close down for all or part of the winter season, so if I’m on the island in the summer I usually try to make a point to go to one of them.

The Duck Soup Inn is an old island establishment and recently changed ownership. I haven’t been there since the new owners took over, but hopefully it is still as amazing as it was last time I went. Entree prices are around $28-$37 a plate, but include both a cup of soup and a small starter salad, as well as their delicious signature anchovy spread and fresh bread. For fine dining, it’s a pretty decent deal for the price.

Duck Soup Inn
Duck Soup Inn
Duck Soup Inn
Duck Soup Inn

The Backdoor Kitchen is a little hard to find (I think the owners kind of like to keep it that way). One of the owners also runs a landscaping business on the island and the outdoor patio seating is amazing on a nice summer evening. It is a little pricey, but the food is organic and high quality. Cocktails are inventive and the menu has an international flair. Service is always fantastic.

Backdoor-Kitchen-Friday-Harbor-summer
Entrance to the Backdoor Kitchen
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My parents waiving to us on the Backdoor Kitchen patio
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Romantic little table in the outdoor patio at Backdoor Kitchen
Backdoor-Kitchen-Friday-Harbor-summer (2)
Carlton Farms pork chop with goat cheese and roasted poblano cream sauce, pinto beans, lime, and cilantro
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Fresh fish of the day
Backdoor-Kitchen-Friday-Harbor-summer (4)
Pan seared sea scallops with ginger sake beurre blanc and sesame scallion rice cakes
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Cheesecake with fresh organic berries
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Summer fruit crisp

I had the pan seared sea scallops last time I was there and they were delicious.

For lunch, my favorite spot is the Market Chef Deli in Friday Harbor, but they are closed on Saturdays and Sundays so if you are on the island during the weekend, you are out of luck. Their sandwiches come on fresh homemade bread and everything I’ve ever had there has been amazing.

Market-Chef-Friday-Harbor
The Market Chef, Friday Harbor
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The Market Chef, Friday Harbor
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The Market Chef, Friday Harbor
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Tuna sandwich (my favorite) at The Market Chef, Friday Harbor
Other restaurant suggestions:

 

A good place for either pub grub or more upscale dining is the Cask and Schooner in Friday Harbor. Another place for decent relatively inexpensive pub grub is Haley’s Sports Bar and Grill. The Hungry Clam is a great place for a greasy diner breakfast while waiting for the ferry.

I’ve also heard great things about Cafe Demeter (80 Nichols Street) for coffee and pastries, and Tops’l Seafood and Sushi (1 Front Street, above the Cask & Schooner) but I have not yet had a chance to eat at either of them.

In the summer, I would also recommend just packing a picnic lunch and heading out to the West Side for a spectacular sunset dinner. You might even see some whales.

 

Where to stay:

Being former locals, we haven’t stayed at a lot of places on the island ourselves. However, we know a bit about a few of them and here are my suggestions:

Juniper Lane Guest House

Juniper (the owner) is a friend of mine and has done an amazing job of blending cozy island style with hip, modern decor to create a warm, inviting, and affordable B&B. Juniper Lane Guest House also offers a cabin for rent and two backpacker/family rooms that can accommodate up to 6 people with bunk beds. Children must be 12 or older to stay. The Guest House is not very far from town (a little bit of a trek but still walkable) and offers beautiful grounds and pastoral views.

Juniper Lane Guest House Friday Harbor
Image from http://juniperlaneguesthouse.com/
Organic Green Tea Room Juniper Lane Guest House Friday Harbor
Organic Green Tea Room (Image from http://juniperlaneguesthouse.com/)

 

Lakedale Resort

I used to work at Lakedale Resort many years ago and therefore know it pretty intimately. If you are looking for secluded peace and quiet or a romantic getaway, this is your place. The resort offers 9 lake view lodge rooms with jacuzzi bathtubs and gas fireplaces, as well as 6 cabins and one three-bedroom lake house. Cabins and the lake house enjoy shared use of a hot tub in a centrally located gazebo. “Glamping” cabins and a campground provide more outdoorsy yet still very nice accommodation options.

Be aware that it is four miles from Friday Harbor town so you will need to drive into town for meals if you stay at the lodge. Cabins have full kitchens and accommodate up to 6 people with one bedroom, a loft bedroom, and a futon in the living room.

Lakedale Resort Lodge Great Room Friday Harbor
Lakedale Lodge Great Room
Lakedale Resort Lodge Room Friday Harbor
Lakedale Resort Lodge Room

 

Lakedale Resort cabin Friday Harbor
Lakedale cabin (image from www.lakedale.com)
Island Inn

I haven’t been to the Island Inn, but I’ve heard great things. It is centrally located in town within easy walking distance to everything. The rooms look modern from the photos and many appear to have great views of the harbor. They have some budget friendly-options as well.

Island Inn Friday Harbor
Image from www.123west.com
Friday Harbor House

Paddy and I stayed at the Friday Harbor House once in November, and it was really nice. The prices in the summer are atrocious, and even in the winter it is a bit of a splurge but much more reasonable. Most rooms offer views of the harbor, gas fireplaces, and jacuzzi tubs. The complimentary continental breakfast in the morning was outstanding, including house made quiche and coffee cake. Location is ideal–easy walk from the ferry and everything in town.

Friday Harbor House room Friday Harbor
Friday Harbor House (image from www.fridayharborhouse.com)

 

There are a ton of places to stay on the island, including many B&Bs. The above places are just a few suggestions, but there are a lot of other great accommodations as well. A good place to look is on Tripadvisor and http://www.friday-harbor.net/accommodations/index.shtml.

 

San Juan Island is a great place to visit in the summer, but make sure you plan ahead. Never show up to the island without a hotel reservation in July or August. Growing up on San Juan Island was a unique experience, and I’ve had many magical summers there in my youth. Friday Harbor changes every time I visit, but the beauty and serenity of the island remains the same.

 

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases from product links on this site.

Lopez Island, WA Fourth of July 2015

Fourth of July weekend on Lopez Island, WA: A relaxing getaway in the San Juan Islands without the tourist crowds, and some of the best fireworks in the state.

 

Growing up on San Juan Island, I always thought Lopez Island was boring. There is barely a town, and it’s mostly flat. This trip as an adult made me appreciate Lopez Island for exactly that–quiet, peaceful, not much going on. A friend of mine from San Juan Island inherited her grandparents’ property on Lopez Island and has been spending Fourth of July there with friends every year, while renting it out to tourists the rest of the summer. We had no Fourth of July weekend plans this year, and when she invited us to join her and her husband and friends, we figured why not?

Prior to the new ferry reservation system for the San Juan Islands that began this year, we would never have considered going up to visit the San Juans over Fourth of July weekend. Fourth of July weekend (especially for Friday Harbor/San Juan Island) is kind of like Black Friday is for shopping malls. It is insanely busy. I’ve heard stories of past ferry lines stretching miles away from the ferry terminal all the way into Anacortes town. Having grown up in Friday Harbor and worked many Fourth of July weekends in various tourist industry jobs, it is hell week for Friday Harborites, but also the weekend the tourist industry people make the most money.

But now we can make reservations. There is much controversy over this new policy with the locals, and I think they still have a few things to iron out. For us however, we made our reservation a couple months in advance, arrived an hour before the 12:35 boat to Lopez Island, and sailed right on with no problem. You can make reservation here up to three months before you head up to the islands. They release 1/3 of the reservations three months ahead, 1/3 a couple weeks ahead, and the remaining 1/3 two days ahead. If you can’t get your reservation, keep checking back.

Day 1: 

Our friend Brooke joined Paddy and I for the weekend on Lopez. We had a smooth sail on the ferry with much fewer crowds than the Friday Harbor sailing. We watched a never-ending line of walk-on tourists board the ramp for the Friday Harbor ferry before the Lopez/Orcas ferry departed. We were on the brand new ferry boat, which had a nice sun deck up top for viewing.

Anacortes Ferry Terminal beach
Anacortes Ferry Terminal beach
Mt Baker, viewed from the Lopez Island ferry
Mt Baker, viewed from the Lopez Island ferry
San Juan Island ferry
Passing another ferry
Lopez Island Ferry in summer
Arriving Lopez Island, walk-on passengers departing. Photo by Brooke Richard

There is no town at the Lopez Island ferry terminal, not much of anything there at all. We drove off the ferry with little traffic, and headed towards Lopez Village.

Our friends’ house is a short ways past Lopez Village, with a gorgeous view of Fisherman Bay. We spent the afternoon relaxing on the deck and making food for dinner. I made a cherry cobbler with some cherries I’d picked from another friend’s cherry tree and it turned out great.

**Note: You can rent this house June through August through VRBO.com (except Fourth of July weekend, that weekend is always reserved for the owners).

Lopez Island house
Our friends’ house on Lopez Island
Fisherman's Bay, Lopez Island
Fisherman’s Bay, Lopez Island
Paddy making a salad for dinner
Paddy making a salad for dinner

Relaxing and watching the sunset

We went into the Lopez Village Market to pick up some ice cream to go with the cobbler. Lopez Island Creamery makes some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had. Be sure to try some while visiting Lopez. You can also buy it by the cone at the market or in town at the Just Heavenly Fudge Factory in Lopez Village. I highly recommend the raspberry lemon if you can find it.

Lopez Island Creamery ice cream
Lopez Island Creamery ice cream

**Note: This isn’t the mainland. The Lopez Village Market is the only game in town for groceries, wine, beer, and booze and it closes at 7:00 PM every day. Make sure you get all your beer and supplies before then. There is a store on the south end of Lopez as well called the South End General Store, which is open until 7:30 and also serves food.

The rest of the evening we hung out and had drinks on the deck, BBQ’ed, and played some cards. The sunset was phenomenal.

Sunset over Fisherman's Bay
Sunset over Fisherman’s Bay Lopez Island

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Sunset Lopez Island
Watching the sunset

 

Day 2:

The next morning was the Fourth of July. Every year, the Lopez Library has an annual book sale to raise money for the library. We ate breakfast and headed into the village early to get there before it got too picked over. We were handed a red sack at the front door which we could fill up as full as we wanted to for $20.00. Five of us filled it to the brim with lots of interesting books. You can also buy books individually.

Saturdays in the summer (mid May through mid September) are also the day for the Lopez Farmers Market from 10:00 to 2:00. It’s a great place to get locally grown veggies, but there are also many other booths selling local crafts, baked goods, tacos and tamales, jewelry, and other items.

Lopez Island Farmer's Market
Lopez Island Farmer’s Market
Lopez Island Farmer's Market
Lopez Island Farmer’s Market
Lopez Island Farmer's Market
Lopez Island Farmer’s Market

One thing I love about Lopez Island is how accepting everyone is. There are a lot of hippies, artists, and free spirits on Lopez and they welcome diversity. I was wearing some funky sunglasses and a vintage-style sundress showing off my tattoos and got lots of random compliments from strangers– as opposed to judgemental “you folks ain’t from around here” looks common in many small towns across America. People from foreign countries and gay and lesbian travelers will feel welcome on Lopez Island as well.

After the Farmer’s Market, it was almost time for the Fourth of July Parade. We drove back towards the house on Fisherman Bay Road and were able to pull over and park near the start of the parade. We easily found a spot on the front of someone’s lawn on the side of the road.

The parade wasn’t much to write home about, but it was full of heart. It seems all anyone really needs to be a part of it is an interesting car or a funky outfit. My favorite part was the lack of crowds and low-key, low-stress vibe. That, and the random giant paper-mache Oscar Meyer Weiner float.

Lopez Island Fourth of July Parade
Lopez Island Fourth of July Parade
Lopez Island Fourth of July Parade
Lopez Island Fourth of July Parade
Lopez Island Fourth of July Parade
Lopez Island Fourth of July Parade
Lopez Island Fourth of July Parade
Lopez Island Fourth of July Parade
Lopez Island Fourth of July Parade
Lopez Island Fourth of July Parade
Lopez Island Fourth of July Parade
Lopez Island Fourth of July Parade
Lopez Island Fourth of July Parade
Lopez Island Fourth of July Parade

 

The parade wasn’t very long, and afterwards Paddy and I explored some of the south end of Lopez Island. We drove to Watmough Bay, but took a wrong turn along the way and ended up on a private road (I think to Paul Allen’s property). We turned around and found our way to the parking area for Watmough at the end of Watmough Head Rd.

Lopez Island --End of Sperry Rd
Lopez Island –End of Sperry Rd
Lopez Island Map
Lopez Island Map

Watmough Bay is touted by locals to be the best beach on the island. It is often very busy on summer weekends. I think we lucked out because everyone was at the Fourth of July BBQ in the village–there was a parking space and only a few people at the beach.

The bay reminded me a little of Maya Bay in the Phi Phi Islands in Thailand. No white sand–a little rocky and lots of seaweed in the water but still beautiful and very Northwest.

Watmough Bay Lopez Island
Watmough Bay
Watmough Bay Lopez Island
Watmough Bay

I found a beached lion’s mane jellyfish on the sand. If you see one of these, don’t touch it or step on it. The bell of the jellyfish is harmless but the tentacles will give a painful sting even when it is dead.

lion's mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata)
lion’s mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata)

 

We hung out at Watmough for a few and then decided to move on. Next we went to Shark Reef Sanctuary, which is accessed by a short trail through the woods to the rocky coast of the southwest part of the island. You can often see seals basking on the rocks here. We didn’t see any seals, but the views are still stunning. You can see Cape San Juan on San Juan Island across the channel, and kelp forests in the water below. There were a few kayakers out enjoying the coast.

Shark Reef Sanctuary Lopez Island
Shark Reef Sanctuary Lopez Island
Shark Reef Sanctuary Lopez Island
Shark Reef Sanctuary Lopez Island
Shark Reef Sanctuary Lopez Island
Kayakers at Shark Reef Sanctuary Lopez Island
Shark Reef Sanctuary Lopez Island
Kelp beds at Shark Reef Sanctuary Lopez Island with Cape San Juan in the distance

 

We were starting to get hungry, so we ventured back into the village. Our friend Brooke joined us and we decided on Bucky’s Lopez Island Grill, which has a nice deck out back. Paddy and I both had the cajun ahi tuna taco special, which was great. Brooke and I each tried a glass of the Madeline Angevine from Lopez Island Vineyards.

Ahi tacos at Bucky's Lopez Island Grill
Ahi tacos at Bucky’s Lopez Island Grill
Lunch at Bucky's Lopez Island Grill
Lunch at Bucky’s Lopez Island Grill

There isn’t a lot to Lopez Island Village, but there are a few shops to explore. After lunch we walked over to the Lopez Island Vineyards tasting room to taste their wines.

Wine tasting at Lopez Island Vineyards
Wine tasting at Lopez Island Vineyards
Wine tasting at Lopez Island Vineyards
Wine tasting at Lopez Island Vineyards
Wine tasting at Lopez Island Vineyards
Wine tasting at Lopez Island Vineyards

You could taste three wines for $5 or six for $10–we each opted for three. We all tasted the Siegerebbe (pronounced zee-ger-eh-beh) which is a very fruity and refreshing white wine grown on Lopez Island. The white grapes for the Madeline Angevine are also grown on island. The other grapes are imported from other drier, sunnier parts of Washington in the Yakima Valley, but all the wine is made on Lopez Island.

Paddy and I also tried the Sangiovese and the Malbec which he loved. I liked them (I like most wine, really) but the Malbec was a little tart for me (I’m more of a Syrah and Cabernet person). Brooke tried the Dry Rose and the Raspberry dessert wine. She said the Raspberry wine was very sweet and tasted just like raspberry juice. She bought a bottle of the rose so I tried a little later that evening. I didn’t think it was that dry, it was kind of sweet. Not super sweet though. We bought a bottle of the Siegerebbe to take home for later this summer. Most wines are $25 a bottle.

The vineyard itself is located on the way to the ferry from the village, you can see the grapes growing from the side of the road. There were signs in the tasting room for a summer Shakespeare play in the vineyard in the evening–it looked like fun.

Lopez Island Vineyards
Lopez Island Vineyards

We checked out a few of the other little shops in the village. There is a cute little consignment shop (mostly women’s clothing) next to the coffee shop that is worth a peek. Brooke found an awesome lime green vintage 60’s go-go dress.

Lopez Village
Lopez Village
Lopez Village
Lopez Village
Deja Vu Consignment Boutique
Deja Vu Consignment Boutique

Lopez Village doesn’t have a lot of restaurants, but there are a few options. I’ve only eaten at a couple of them other than Bucky’s, and that was 10 or more years ago, but I remember them being pretty good. Bucky’s and The Galley have burgers and salads and are a couple of the more inexpensive places to eat in town. The Bay Cafe is probably the nicest dinner restaurant. For breakfast I highly recommend Holly B’s Bakery–their bread and pastries are outstanding. Isabel’s Espresso is the local coffee joint, featuring organic coffee and organic milk. You can find a list and short description of all the restaurants on Lopez Island on the Lopez Island Chamber of Commerce website.

We spent the rest of the afternoon making food for dinner and relaxing. Near sunset people began setting up on the side of Fisherman Bay for the fireworks show, and more and more boats showed up to anchor out in the bay. I took a walk down the road to catch some views of the sunset, which was amazing.

Sunset over Fisherman Bay on Lopez Island
Sunset over Fisherman Bay on Lopez Island
Sunset over Fisherman Bay on Lopez Island
Sunset over Fisherman Bay on Lopez Island
Sunset over Fisherman Bay on Lopez Island
Chairs set up by the side of the road for the Fourth of July Fireworks

Sunset over Fisherman Bay on Lopez Island

Sunset over Fisherman Bay on Lopez Island

Sunset over Fisherman Bay on Lopez Island
Sunset over Fisherman Bay on Lopez Island

Lopez Island is renowned for it’s Fourth of July fireworks display. They have always had the best fireworks in the San Juan Islands, and I’d go so far to say that they may be the best in the whole state of Washington. Our friends told us that this year they raised $80,000 for the show, which was twice Friday Harbor’s budget. It’s pretty impressive for such a small island. Lopezians take a lot of pride in their fireworks and always have.

Once the sun was set, Friday Harbor began their fireworks at dusk and you could see them across the sound in the distance. Lopez patiently waited until their show was done.

Sunset over Fisherman Bay on Lopez Island

Sunset over Fisherman Bay on Lopez Island

Sunset over Fisherman Bay on Lopez Island
Sunset over Fisherman Bay on Lopez Island

Once Friday Harbor wrapped it up, Lopez gave a 10 minute firework warning, and then a 5 minute warning. Then the show began. It was hands down the best fireworks display I’ve seen. It wasn’t only the volume of fireworks, but the types they had. Some of them I hadn’t even seen before. The show lasted about 30 minutes. I took some photos, but they really don’t do it justice.

Lopez Island Fourth of July fireworks
Lopez Island Fourth of July fireworks
Lopez Island Fourth of July fireworks
Lopez Island Fourth of July fireworks
Lopez Island Fourth of July fireworks
Lopez Island Fourth of July fireworks
Lopez Island Fourth of July fireworks
Lopez Island Fourth of July fireworks
Lopez Island Fourth of July fireworks
Lopez Island Fourth of July fireworks
Lopez Island Fourth of July fireworks
Lopez Island Fourth of July fireworks

 

Day 3:

Lopez voted no last year to the ferry reservations, so you can make a reservation going to Lopez but not to leave Lopez Island. The day after Fourth of July can be very crazy with long lines for the ferries, and because it was also a Sunday, we figured we were best off getting up early and trying to make the 7:15 AM boat. We got in line at 6:30 or so, and the line was already backed up down the road. Fortunately, the boat was large and only loading cars from Lopez to Anacortes, and we made it on. We were tired, but also beat the holiday weekend traffic and made it back to Seattle by 9:45 AM. It was well worth it.

Paddy and I fell in love with Lopez island a little this trip. After growing up with the insanity of the tourist season in Friday Harbor, it was so nice to be able to have an island summer getaway that was laid back and crowd-free. We will be back for sure. There is more of Lopez we’d like to explore–other hiking trails, etc. If you are in the mood for a lazy, low-key San Juan Islands vacation– Lopez Island is perfect.

 

 

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Portland Oregon 2015: Downtown and Buckman

A quick girls’ getaway to Portland: A concert in Vancouver, vintage clothes shopping, books, brunch, a creepy cafe, a horror theme bar, and some fabulous food.

I love Portland. It seems that I never run out of things to see and do there. It is a mecca for food, craft beer, vintage clothing stores, doughnuts, and strip clubs. This is the second of several posts you will see probably see on Portland, because it really never gets old. This weekend was a quick girls trip to Vancouver and Portland, and we got to explore a little more of downtown and the Buckman neighborhood in Southeast Portland.

One major drawback about heading down to Portland from Seattle on Friday is the traffic. My friends Brooke and Cass and I left Seattle at noon, and arrived at our Vancouver hotel just north of the Oregon border at 4:30. On Friday, the rush hour traffic is the worst, and you hit Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia, and Vancouver’s traffic on I-5 on the way there.

There isn’t much to see in Vancouver, it is kind of a suburb city in Washington just outside of Portland. We were there to see the Courtney Love and Lana Del Rey show at the Sleep Country Amphitheater. We stayed at the Quality Inn and Suites nearby, which was nice and affordable at $89 a night.

Day 1:

We arrived hungry and tired of being in the car. Billygan’s Roadhouse was right across the street from our hotel, so we went over there for a bite to eat before the show. Paddy and I have eaten breakfast there twice on the way home from Portland, and their breakfast was good.

Billygan’s is one of those places that gives you free peanuts and you throw your shells on the floor. Always a good time.

Billygan's Roadhouse
Billygan’s Roadhouse
Billygan's Roadhouse
Billygan’s Roadhouse
Billygan's Roadhouse
Billygan’s Roadhouse

The food is your standard American diner/pub fare, and it’s pretty good. Cass and Brooke each had the baked potato and salad deal, and I had the teriyaki chicken burger with a side salad. Billygan’s is a pretty solid road trip stop-off, signs for it are posted on the freeway.

This was our first show at the Sleep Country Amphitheater. We had chosen the cheapest assigned seats in the back. There was a lawn area behind us with even cheaper admission, but we were glad we didn’t go for the lawn. The view looked bad, you had to fight for a spot (and keep it saved), and there was no cover for rain. The assigned seats are worth it.

Beer, wine, and snacks are served all over the courtyard outside the amphitheater, and you have to get a wristband for adult beverages from one of the little wristband kiosks walking in.

Sleepcountry-Amphitheater-Vancouver (2)
Food and drink courtyard outside the theater
Sleepcountry-Amphitheater-Vancouver (3)
Pre-show beers

Sleepcountry-Amphitheater-Vancouver (4)

The amphitheater was quite the teen summer fashion parade. The shorts are very short this year, and the waistbands are high. There were so many girls with fake flower crowns on that I kept looking at the merch booths to see if they were selling them but they weren’t.

After a 45 minute diva-like late start, Courtney Love took the stage. We were surprised that her show was actually not bad, with some old Hole covers and a few new (albeit not so great) songs. She gave the audience shit about the plethora of flower crowns throughout the whole show. She was pretty entertaining, but I don’t think there were that many Hole fans in the audience. Most of the audience looked like they hadn’t even been born until the mid to late 90’s.

Courtney Love Vancouver WA
Courtney Love
Courtney Love Vancouver WA
Courtney Love

Lana Del Rey put on a great show, with an elaborate set. Her dress made me think of Alice in Wonderland.

Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey

After the show, it took us an entire hour to get out of the parking lot, and there were still a ton of cars behind us–who knows how long it took them to get out. Fortunately we were staying nearby, but it was a pain in the ass. Everything else was efficient and easy about the amphitheater, but the traffic back to I-5 was a total clusterfuck.

 

Day 2:

Cass had to head back to Seattle for a wedding, so Brooke and I were on our own for 24 hours in Portland. I’m a loyal Lyft customer back in Seattle, especially since when I first signed up for Lyft this winter and received a $20 ride credit towards my first 10 rides if used in a week. I figured Uber had to have some sort of sign up deal as well, so I signed up for Uber and found a $25 off your first ride coupon on Retailmenot.com. Our ride from Vancouver to downtown Portland ended up being only $7.00.

**Tip: If you haven’t used them before, wait and sign up for Lyft or Uber when you need an expensive ride somewhere and see what kind of deals you can get on your first ride.

I’d looked at brunch spots in downtown Portland and we decided on Tasty N Alder. There was an hour and a half wait, but we got on the list and gave our cell number, and then walked a couple of blocks over to Powell’s City of Books.

Powell's City of Books Portland
Powell’s City of Books

Powell’s is the book store to end all book stores. I visit it every time I visit Portland. They have a map at the front entrance to help you navigate the sections, and there are plenty of information clerks to help you find something specific. Best of all, they have used books and new books on the shelves, together in harmony. If there are six copies of the book you want, you can check the price on each one and decide how used or new you are willing to pay for. Powell’s is also a great spot for Portland souvenirs–they have lots of coffee mugs, guide books, and other fun items from the Northwest. (You always wanted a log pillow so you can be like the log lady from Twin Peaks, right? Powell’s will hook you up.)

Right as we were wrapping it up at Powell’s, Brooke got a phone call from Tasty N Alder that our table was ready.

Tasty N Alder was definitely worth the wait. They have a bunch of unique small plates and larger entrees, all meant to be shared. Sort of like a brunch tapas bar. Also on the menu is a selection of brunch cocktails and boozy milkshakes (called “grown-ass milkshakes.”).

Brunch at Tasty N Alder Portland
Brunch at Tasty N Alder Portland

I went for the “Tasty Mary” which was a classic bloody mary with a little sriracha and house-made pickled okra, beet, and mushroom. It was fabulous. Brooke had the “Elizabeth Taylor,” a sparkling cocktail with creme de violette and bubbles.

Tasty Mary at Tasty N Alder
Tasty Mary at Tasty N Alder

We also shared the simple greens, potatos bravas, and the Korean fried chicken. It was all amazing. The Korean fried chicken came in a rice bowl with a fried over-easy egg on top. The chicken was crispy and boneless, which made it a lot easier to share and eat with the rice, egg, and kimchi.

Potatoes bravas at Tasty N Alder Portland
Potatoes bravas at Tasty N Alder Portland
Simple greens at Tasty N Alder Portland
Simple greens at Tasty N Alder Portland

After brunch we were ready to do some vintage shopping. Another great thing about Portland? No sales tax! As if you need another excuse to shop…

Our first stop was Ray’s Ragtime, which is also right next door to a plus size vintage shop, Fat Fancy. I am plus-sized, and it is difficult to find great stuff at regular vintage stores. Not a whole lot at Fat Fancy is vintage, but they have a lot of great stuff at great prices. I found a summer dress, a sequin skirt, and another pair of sunglasses to match my new bathing suit I got for this summer.

Ray’s Ragtime next door is a treasure trove of vintage clothing, costume jewelry, vintage hats, and mardi gras masks. Brooke found an awesome 60’s go-go dress and a bracelet to match, and I got a fabulous lime green vinyl purse.

Brooke and her new dress from Rays Ragtime
Brooke and her new dress from Rays Ragtime

We walked over to Burnside and stopped in at Buffalo Exchange, where Brooke found some great boots to go with her new dress.

It was edging towards late afternoon, and we were ready to check into our hotel and ditch our backpacks. We caught the #20 bus a short ways across the Burnside bridge to the Eastside Lodge, where we had a reservation. The Eastside Lodge isn’t the classiest joint, but at $100 a night including lodging tax, it was quite a bit cheaper than the more hip and more preferable Jupiter Hotel across the street. The lobby smelled like cigarette smoke, and I filled out our information on a handwritten index-card sized form. It was clean, however, and the beds were decently comfortable. Included is a mini fridge and coffee maker. No hairdryer built in, but we were able to check one out from the front desk. Bottom line: When I visit Portland, I don’t spend much time in the room other than to sleep. There are far better things to do.

We ditched our bags and explored Burnside a bit, which borders the Buckman neighborhood in Southeast Portland.  We found Bombshell Vintage, which had an impressive collection of 1950’s prom dresses and crinoline skirts.

Bombshell Vintage Portland
Bombshell Vintage Portland
Bombshell Vintage Portland
Bombshell Vintage Portland
Bombshell Vintage Portland
Bombshell Vintage Portland

Rock and Rose a bit further down the street had an interesting selection of new and vintage clothes, as well as gifts and collectibles. There are quite a few other shops, restaurants and bars along Burnside to see as well.

Keep Portland Weird
Keep Portland Weird
rainbow watering cans portland
Hardware and garden store in Buckman

Further east on Burnside we stumbled across Hippo Hardware, a vintage hardware shop with a Hippopotamus fetish. We weren’t looking to visit a hardware store, but the hippos were calling to us.

Hippo Hardware Portland
Hippo Hardware Portland
Hippo Hardware Portland
Hippo Hardware Portland

Hippo Hardware Portland

Hippo Hardware Portland
Hippo Hardware Portland

Hippo Hardware is huge–two stories full of old antique hardware such as light switch plates, knobs, door knockers, bathtubs, toilets, sinks, and an entire upper floor devoted to antique lighting. If you’re looking for an antique chandelier or funky old knobs for a chest of drawers or cupboards, or really want a pink toilet, this is the place to go. The owner’s impressive collection of various types of hippos mingle with the merchandise on almost every shelf. They also sold T-shirts, and I’m kicking myself for not buying one. Next time.

Hippo Hardware Portland
Hippo Hardware Portland
Hippo Hardware Portland
Hippo Hardware Portland
Hippo Hardware Portland
Hippo Hardware Portland

It was 4:00, and we needed a break. Not interested in hanging out in our moderately skanky hotel room, we decided to find somewhere to sit down and get a drink. We consulted our phones, and Brooke thought she found a brewery up the hill a little further east. When we got there, it turned out to just be a bottling plant. We glanced around and saw The Sandy Hut.

The Sandy Hut Portland
The Sandy Hut Portland

It looked like the worst dive bar in Portland, but we were there. And we were thirsty.

The Sandy Hut (I recently read that locals call it “The  Handy Slut”) turned out to be the best accidental bar discovery I’ve ever made in Portland. We walked in the front door and past the Playboy pinball machine, and stepped straight into the 1960’s: old Hollywood mural on the wood-paneled wall, curved faux leather booths, and Frank Sinatra mixed with other hits from the 40’s-60’s played on the jukebox. The bartender was friendly, and the blended strawberry margarita she made me was strong and refreshing. The food menu even looked decent, and reminiscent of times past.

The Sandy Hut Portland
The Sandy Hut Portland
The Sandy Hut Portland
The Sandy Hut Portland
The Sandy Hut Portland
The Sandy Hut Portland
The Sandy Hut Portland
The Sandy Hut Portland
The Sandy Hut Portland
The Sandy Hut Portland

We left The Sandy Hut thoroughly refreshed, and hungry. My friend Eric, a former Portland resident, told us Biwa Japanese Izakaya in Buckman was his favorite restaurant in the entire city. He has also lived in Japan, so his recommendation held some weight. We walked to Biwa and stopped by a mural for a photo op along the way:

Portland mural

Portland mural

Portland mural

Biwa Japanese Izakaya (215 SE 9th Ave) turned out to be as good as Eric told us it would be. If you’re not familiar with Izakaya style Japanese restaurants, they are kind of like a Japanese tapas bar. Small plates meant to be eaten with beer or cocktails.

Biwa Japanese restaurant Portland
Biwa

We started with some fancy cocktails. Brooke had a drink that was called something like “so cool, so modern,” which was herbal and fresh and came with a green strawberry. I had the “wtf” which was reposado tequila, yellow chartreuse and cardamaro, the latter two ingredients I’d never heard of. The waiter told me if I like tequila I’d love it. I didn’t. But it was drinkable. Medicinal tasting, but drinkable.

We started with the “porkiest” pan-fried gyoza dumplings to share, which were the best gyoza I’ve ever had. The dipping sauce tasted house made and had a bit of an extra vinegar bite that really complimented the porkiness.

Biwa cocktails Portland (2)

Biwa porkiest gyoza Portland (3)
The “porkiest” gyoza at Biwa

Brooke had the masu (trout) prepared like BBQ eel, and the miso soup. She said it was good. I had the rice cake soup with pork belly and clams, and the onigiri (rice ball with tuna and mayo inside and wrapped with crispy nori). Both were outstanding. The tuna inside the rice ball tasted smoked, and the rice was seasoned perfectly. I wished I’d ordered two of them. The soup was also delicious.

We were still a little hungry so we ordered the karaage (Japanese-style fried chicken bites) to share and Brooke had the shiitake mushroom skewer. The chicken was delicious, and too much for us to eat. We had a fridge in our room so we took it with us for later.

Biwa masu trout Portland (4)
Masu (BBQ trout) at Biwa
Biwa pork belly clam rice cake soup Portland (5)
Miso soup and pork belly/clam/rice cake soup at Biwa
Biwa karaage fried chicken and shiitake skewer Portland (6)
Karaage fried chicken bites and shiitake mushroom skewer at Biwa

 

After dinner, we headed to a coffee shop in Buckman that I’ve been wanting to check out for a long time: Rimksy-Korsakoffee. On my last trip to Portland I’d made the mistake of assuming that since it was a coffee shop, it would be open in the day time and attempted to visit in the afternoon. It is open evenings only, from 7:00 PM to midnight. No alcohol is served, just coffee and dessert.

Rimsky-Korsakoffee inhabits a converted Victorian house. We walked in and took two menus from the table by the door, as instructed by the sign on the table and found a spot in the back room. It was busy, and the atmosphere was cozy. A woman played piano in the front room for tips. We ordered coffee, tea, and shared an ice cream sundae. Our waiter was peppy and flamboyant, calling us names like “sugar cookie.” He was very entertaining.

Rimsky-Korsakoffee-Portland (3)
Rimsky-Korsakoffee
Rimsky-Korsakoffee-Portland (2)
Rimsky-Korsakoffee
Rimsky-Korsakoffee-Portland (4)
Rimsky-Korsakoffee
Rimsky-Korsakoffee-Portland
Rimsky-Korsakoffee

One of the things Rimsky-Korsakoffee is most famous for is its bathroom, so naturally I had to check it out. It is located upstairs, which had 5 different doors. The doors were labeled “no not here,” “no no not here,” “not here either, silly,” “don’t even think about going in here,” and “bathroom.” I was really curious about what was behind doors number 2-5. I guess I’ll never know.

The bathroom lived up to its legacy. When I walked in I was momentarily startled by a life-sized doll with a receding hairline sitting in a kayak on the bathroom floor. The entire bathroom is painted like an underwater world, with mannequin feet dangling off of a dock on the ceiling, and a mermaid holding your toilet paper. I think the kayak man is supposed to be a corpse, and he is missing part of his arm (shark attack?). There is a story here, maybe someday I’ll figure out what it is.

Rimsky-Korsakoffee-Portland (7)
In the hallway of Rimsky-Korsakoffee
Rimsky-Korsakoffee bathroom
Rimsky-Korsakoffee bathroom
Rimsky-Korsakoffee bathroom
Rimsky-Korsakoffee bathroom
Rimsky Korsakoffee bathroom Portland
Rimsky Korsakoffee bathroom Portland
Rimsky-Korsakoffee bathroom
Rimsky-Korsakoffee bathroom
Rimsky-Korsakoffee bathroom
Rimsky-Korsakoffee bathroom
Rimsky-Korsakoffee bathroom
Rimsky-Korsakoffee bathroom

I think if I was in high school or didn’t drink and lived in Portland, Rimsky-Korsakoffee would be my regular evening spot to socialize.

Rimsky Korsakoffee Portland

We settled up with our fabulous waiter and headed on to our next destination, the Lovecraft Bar. The Lovecraft is a horror-themed bar named after the turn of the century horror author H.P. Lovecraft. It was early, and the bar only had a few people in it. We ordered some beers and snagged the last available booth.  A dirty old biker guy sat on a bar stool nearby obnoxiously attempting to flirt with some girls sitting behind us. Fortunately, he left us alone.

Lovecraft-Bar-Portland
Lovecraft Bar
Lovecraft-Bar-Portland (3)
Lovecraft Bar
Lovecraft-Bar-Portland (2)
Lovecraft Bar

Shortly after we got our drinks, the fog machine turned on, and an electronic singer/performer started some entertainment on the dance floor. We stayed a little while longer, and then moved on.

No night out in Portland is complete without a visit to one of the numerous strip clubs in town. My favorite (and the only one I’ve been to, actually) is Mary’s downtown. Tonight we thought we’d check out Union Jack’s, which was directly across the street from our hotel.

Several years ago, I’d heard Union Jack’s was cool. Girls with tattoos stripping to punk music and ironically gyrating to 80’s metal hits. Very Portland chic. Unfortunately, this was not the case. It was pretty much your standard sleezy strip bar. The girls were working the room like party guests in g-strings to get the overwhelmingly male crowd into the back rooms for a private dance (or whatever).

We bought some beers and took a seat right at the back stage, armed with $1.00 bills to tip with. A few of the girls had some pretty amazing pole moves, some others were more mediocre–less acrobatic and more wrapping legs around gentlemens’ necks on the edge of the stage.

Union Jacks Portland
Image of Union Jack’s by Leah Nash http://www.wweek.com/portland/article-22104-strip-club-guide-2014-our-favorite-clubs-from-a-to-z.html

After a few dances, we moved back a bit to some lounge chairs and watched a while longer. Being the only two non-working women in the strip club (aside from two women who were there with their boyfriends), we found ourselves to be delightfully invisible. The girls were nice to us–complimenting Brooke on her dress, telling us we looked cute, but we pretty much safely avoided the hustle for the back rooms.

There was a lesbian bachelorette party that showed up at one point, and the guest of honor was invited up on stage for a public lap dance–all in good fun.

It wasn’t a bad experience, but I probably wouldn’t go back to Union Jack’s intentionally. There are far better strip clubs in Portland that offer classier and more unique stage shows without the sleezy hustle. I’ve got no problem with lap dances, but that type of club isn’t my scene. Mary’s is way better–if you are into a more of a casual bar with a stage show thing. Just make sure to bring singles to tip with.

 

Day 3: 

We checked out of the hotel and took the bus back across the Burnside bridge to the Pearl District downtown, and got our name on the wait list for the Byways Cafe for breakfast.

Byways Cafe Portland
Byways Cafe

There were three little tiny tables on the sidewalk, so we took one that opened up rather than wait for one inside. We never actually saw inside the place. The food was fantastic. Brooke had Meg’s veggie mountain with vegetables, potatoes, and egg, and I had the three day weekend (biscuit and gravy with scrambled egg). It was the best biscuit and gravy I’ve ever had (seriously). The biscuit was fresh and crisp on the outside, soft on the inside. It was a pretty hearty breakfast, I was glad I opted for fruit instead of hash browns.

Meg's veggie mountain Byways-Cafe-Portland (3)
Meg’s Veggie Mountain
Byways-Cafe-Portland
“Three Day Weekend” at The Byways Cafe

After breakfast we walked down to the train station and took the Amtrak train back to Seattle (a four hour trip). We shared a train car with a gaggle of noisy girl scouts, much to the chagrin of the men in the seats behind us. Fortunately I had my ipod to tune them out.

Train-Portland (2)
Portland train station

Train-Portland

It was another short and sweet trip to Portland. I am looking forward to a longer stay sometime in the future with Paddy. There are still many places on my Portland list to check out. Stay tuned.

 

The Olympic National Park 2015: Hoh Rainforest

Camping in the Hoh Rainforest 2015: Overnight stop in Port Angeles, Olympic national Park Hoh Rainforest Visitor’s Center, walking the Hall of Mosses trail and Spruce Nature trail

 

We love the Olympic National Park. There is so much to see and so many different parts of it. We had visited the Hoh Rainforest portion of the park 11 years ago and loved it, but unfortunately the distance from Seattle makes it only worth it to us to visit on a three day weekend or longer. We were invited to go camping with some friends on their property on the Hoh River in May, so we took an extra day off work and packed up our camping gear.

Getting to the Hoh Rainforest from Seattle is a bit of a trek, usually involving a ferry. You can go a few different ways depending on which ferry is closest to you, or even drive around from the south. We opted for the Edmonds-Kingston ferry route in the north, with an overnight at a hotel in Port Angeles on Thursday night to get a head start.

Edmonds-Kingston ferry
Edmonds-Kingston ferry
Edmonds-Kingston ferry
Edmonds-Kingston ferry
Edmonds-Kingston ferry
Edmonds-Kingston ferry sun deck

The ferry from Edmonds to Kingston is a short 35-minute ride and is first-come/first served (no reservations). They leave about every hour to hour and a half or so depending on the season and day of the week. The 2015 fare for a vehicle and driver from Edmonds to Kingston is $17.30 + $8.00 per passenger. On the way back passengers travel free.

Day 1:

We managed to catch the 5:25 PM ferry on Thursday, and we drove straight from Kingston to Port Angeles (about an hour and 20 minute drive). We were on a super-tight budget, so we had reserved a room at the Flagstone Motel on the main highway, in walking distance to everything in town. The rate was $59 a night, and it was about what you can expect for that rate.

Flagstone Motel Port Angeles
Flagstone Motel Port Angeles
Flagstone Motel Port Angeles
Flagstone Motel Port Angeles
Flagstone Motel Port Angeles
Flagstone Motel Port Angeles
Flagstone Motel Port Angeles
Flagstone Motel Port Angeles

The bed wasn’t super comfortable, but the room was clean. The towels were actually not small pieces of sandpaper, which was pleasantly surprising. I was glad we brought our hair dryer though, there was none to be found in the room.

After we checked in, we were starving so we headed into town seeking sustenance. An old college roommate of mine grew up in Port Angeles, so I had messaged her for recommendations prior to our trip. For dinner she recommended the Next Door Gastropub, so we went down to check it out. Unfortunately, it was jam packed with a wait at the door. No one seemed available to put us on a list or give us an estimated wait time, and we were too hungry to wait around. We walked down the street and around the corner to Front Street and found the Kokopelli Grill. They were able to seat us right away and their southwest menu looked good.

Kokopelli Grill Port Angeles
Kokopelli Grill Port Angeles

The entree prices were a bit high, but they came with soup or salad and dinner rolls, as well as a vegetable and your choice of cilantro rice, plain or green-chili mashed potatoes, southwest fries, or sweet potato fries. We both started with the salmon corn chowder. Paddy ordered the surf and turf with grilled shrimp and the green chili mashed potatoes, and I had the yellow and blue corn crusted crab chili relleno with southwest fries.

Salmon corn chowder at Kokopelli Grill Port Angeles
Salmon corn chowder at Kokopelli Grill Port Angeles
Surf and Turf with shrimp and green chili mashed potatoes at Kokopelli Grill Port Angeles
Surf and Turf with shrimp and green chili mashed potatoes at Kokopelli Grill Port Angeles
Yellow and blue corn crusted crab chili relleno at Kokopelli Grill Port Angeles
Yellow and blue corn crusted crab chili relleno at Kokopelli Grill Port Angeles

Overall it was a pretty good deal for the money and the service was good. The restaurant decor was a little strange, it kind of looked like it used to be an Italian restaurant that someone bought and added a few Kokopelli figurines on the walls and Kokopelli dishware. The food was good, however and there was more than we could eat.

Completely stuffed and tired from working earlier that day, we walked back to the hotel and made it an early night. At around 3:00 AM there was an incoherent drunk yelling outside the motel, but he didn’t yell for too long. The Motel is right on the highway through town, so it can be a little noisy and the walls are thin.

 

Day 2:

Since we had gotten a head start the night before, we were able to sleep in and take our time in the morning. I woke up with a stiff back from the cheap mattress, but a hot shower fixed it. We checked out of the room and went down the street to First Street Haven, the restaurant my old college roommate recommended for breakfast. It was tiny and a bit cramped, but we got a table right away. I’m sure there is a wait on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

First-Street-Haven-Port-Angeles
First Street Haven Port Angeles

We were given a choice of light or dark roast coffee (nice to have the option!) and a regular menu and a specials menu. All breakfast entrees come with either toast or a baked good–coffee cake, cinamon roll, scone, muffin, or bagel. Paddy ordered the Montrachet omelette with toast off of the regular menu, and I ordered the bacon and brie scramble with raspberry coffee cake off of the specials menu. The coffee cake arrived first by itself and it was enormous. We sampled a few delicious bites, but figured we had better save room for our egg dishes. Fortunately, coffee cake travels well and we were able to take the rest to go. They didn’t skimp on the goat cheese on the Montrachet omelette, much to Paddy’s delight (you can never have too much goat cheese). Both the omelette and scramble were excellent–this place is worth the wait on the weekend if there’s a line.

Raspberry coffee cake at First Street Haven
Raspberry coffee cake at First Street Haven
Bacon and brie scramble at First Street Haven Port Angeles
Bacon and brie scramble at First Street Haven Port Angeles: Bacon, brie, and asparagus
Montrachet omelette at First Street Haven Port Angeles
Montrachet omelette at First Street Haven Port Angeles: Herbs, spinach, goat cheese, bacon, scallions, and plum tomatoes

After breakfast we walked across the street to check out Moss, a little boutique store featuring Northwest style clothing and accessories, as well as outdoor gear and gifts. The owner was a friend of my old college roommate, so we went in and said hi. The store was outdoorsy and unique, and had a lot of interesting stuff. A great place to go for gifts.

We got on the road, making one last stop in Forks for gas and beer. We couldn’t help but notice that Forks is still desperately clinging to the Twilight phenomenon, with Twilight tours advertised and “Twilight” inserted into the names of a couple stores and restaurants.

After a short drive south of Forks, we arrived at our friends’ property on the Hoh River off of Oil City Road. We set up our spot right along the river.

Oil City Road along the Hoh River
Oil City Road along the Hoh River
Camping in the Hoh Rainforest
Camping in the Hoh Rainforest

We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing with our friends. Late in the afternoon Paddy and I explored Oil City Road a bit and found that the end of the road is an entrance to an Olympic National Park trail through the Hoh Rainforest to the beach.  It is also an access to the western-most portion of the Pacific Northwest Trail, which extends all the way from Glacier National Park in Montana. We walked part way down the trail along the river until we could see the ocean, but didn’t want to get too far out as everyone was getting dinner started. Next time we come here, we plan on following the trail at least to the ocean.

Big leafy plant in the rainforest
Big leafy plant in the rainforest
The Hoh River along the Pacific Northwest Trail
The Hoh River along the Pacific Northwest Trail
The Hoh River along the Pacific Northwest Trail
The Hoh River along the Pacific Northwest Trail
Hoh River meets the Pacific Ocean
Hoh River meets the Pacific Ocean

Back at camp, our friends were making some BBQ pulled chicken and baking biscuits in some camping Dutch ovens. Hot coals from a coal starter in the campfire were set underneath and on top of the ovens on the ground, baking the biscuits. The biscuits turned out perfect, and now we both think we need to invest in a camping Dutch oven. Paddy had brought a pasta salad he made to share, and some other friends heated up a foil pan of their homemade mac and cheese. I must say we ate extremely well on this trip.

Camping Dutch oven cooking
Camping Dutch oven cooking

That evening many drinks were consumed and a tribute was done to our friend’s grandfather, the previous owner of the property. This weekend would have been his 100th birthday. Words of appreciation were shouted, a horn was blown, and scotch was poured in the river.

Hoh River camping

Hoh River camping

 

Day 3:

The next morning we made some coffee on our Coleman stove with a tea kettle and french press, ate some granola and hard boiled eggs, and set out to explore. We drove back to the highway and headed a short ways north back towards Forks to the Hoh Rainforest National Park entrance road. On the way from our campsite to the highway on Oil City Road, we passed a family of cows lazing away the morning. It must be good to be a rainforest cow.

Cows on Oil City Road

Cows on Oil City Road

Cows on Oil City Road

About halfway down the National Park entrance road we reached the fee station and paid our fee. The fee for a one-week pass to any area of the Olympic National Park is $15.00 per vehicle, or $30.00 for an annual pass.

At the end of the road is the Hoh Rainforest Campground and Visitor’s Center. We camped there 11 years ago for a night, and the sites were a little open but it was a nice campground. It is first come first served, with 88 sites total. According to the ranger I talked to a couple years back, it is the largest campground in the Olympic National Park and the last to fill up on summer weekends.

There are two extremely easy walking trails (I’d hesitate to even call them hikes) that are great for families with kids or people who are not super in-shape. The shortest is the Hall of Mosses Trail, which is .8 miles, and the Spruce Nature Trail, which is 1.2 miles. If you are up for some serious Hoh Rainforest exploration, there is the Hoh River Trail, which is about 18 miles one way.

We opted for the two easy ones, starting with the Spruce Nature Trail.

Hoh Rainforest Trails
Hoh Rainforest Trails
Spruce Nature Trail, Hoh Rainforest
Spruce Nature Trail, Hoh Rainforest
Spruce Nature Trail, Hoh Rainforest
Spruce Nature Trail, Hoh Rainforest
Spruce Nature Trail, Hoh Rainforest
Spruce Nature Trail, Hoh Rainforest
Spruce Nature Trail, Hoh Rainforest
Spruce Nature Trail, Hoh Rainforest
Spruce Nature Trail, Hoh Rainforest
Spruce Nature Trail, Hoh Rainforest

Spruce Nature Trail, Hoh Rainforest

Spruce Nature Trail, Hoh Rainforest
Spruce Nature Trail, Hoh Rainforest
Spruce Nature Trail, Hoh Rainforest
Spruce Nature Trail, Hoh Rainforest
Spruce Nature Trail, Hoh Rainforest
Spruce Nature Trail, Hoh Rainforest

The Hoh Rainforest truly is a magical place. The moss hanging from the trees, the ferns and vines, mushrooms and green life growing out of every place in the forest all gives me a sense of peace when I’m there. You almost expect to see faeries and elves dart away when you peer closely at a fallen tree along the path.

Of the two trails, the Hall of Mosses trail is my favorite. It is the shortest, but I feel it is also the most scenic. I love all the hanging furry moss in the rainforest.

Hall of Mosses Hoh Rainforest

Hall of Mosses trail Hoh Rainforest

Hall of Mosses Hoh Rainforest

Hall of Mosses Hoh Rainforest

Hall of Mosses Hoh Rainforest
Hall of Mosses Hoh Rainforest
Hall of Mosses Hoh Rainforest
Hall of Mosses Hoh Rainforest

There is a portion of the trail that is actually called the Hall of Mosses. It is a large clearing with tall spruce trees and moss hanging from every branch. When we approached it there were several people in the clearing all being very quiet. We walked in and saw a large elk to our right, munching on the vegetation and paying no mind to all the paparazzi snapping pictures of him.

Hall of Mosses trail Hoh Rainforest
Hall of Mosses trail Hoh Rainforest
Hall of Mosses trail Hoh Rainforest
Hall of Mosses trail Hoh Rainforest
Elk in the Hall of Mosses trail Hoh Rainforest
Elk in the Hall of Mosses trail Hoh Rainforest
Elk in the Hall of Mosses trail Hoh Rainforest
Elk in the Hall of Mosses trail Hoh Rainforest
Elk in Hoh Rainforest
Elk in Hoh Rainforest
Hall of Mosses trail Hoh Rainforest
Hall of Mosses trail

Hall of Mosses trail Hoh Rainforest

Hall of Mosses trail Hoh Rainforest
Hall of Mosses trail Hoh Rainforest
Hall of Mosses trail Hoh Rainforest
Hall of Mosses trail Hoh Rainforest

At the end of the trail is a gigantic fallen Sitka Spruce tree that is 190 feet long bordering the trail. It is impressive to see, and even more impressive to know that it isn’t the largest tree in the forest–many Sitka Spruces in the rainforest are over 300 feet tall.

Giant fallen Sitka Spruce on the Hall of Mosses Trail
Giant fallen Sitka Spruce on the Hall of Mosses Trail
Giant fallen Sitka Spruce on the Hall of Mosses Trail
Giant fallen Sitka Spruce on the Hall of Mosses Trail
Giant fallen Sitka Spruce on the Hall of Mosses Trail
Giant fallen Sitka Spruce on the Hall of Mosses Trail
Giant fallen Sitka Spruce on the Hall of Mosses Trail
Giant fallen Sitka Spruce on the Hall of Mosses Trail

Hoh-Rainforest 130

We finished our hike and stopped by the two small stores on the road back to the highway in hopes of picking up some ice. It was the weekend before Memorial Day weekend, and the Hard Rain Cafe told us their ice machine wasn’t in business yet, but would be by afternoon. I’m assuming their business is seasonal Memorial Day through Labor Day. It also looked like they were still stocking the souvenir shelves. The Peak 6 Adventure Store didn’t have any ice either, but they had just about everything for camping and hiking you could need if you forgot something–including rain gear and hiking shoes. We had enough ice to last until morning, so we figured we’d be fine.

**Note–you will need to drive back to Forks for most of your groceries and supplies if you are camping in the Hoh Rainforest.

Back at camp we relaxed a while longer, and then Paddy helped with dinner. Our contribution was baked potatoes, which we cooked on the grill over the campfire. Our friends had made the genius discovery that welder’s gloves are perfect for cooking on the campfire, and are a fraction of the price of camping or oven gloves. We have added welder’s gloves to our camping supplies shopping list.

Cooking baked potatoes on the campfire
Cooking baked potatoes on the campfire

Our friend Scott had brought a deep-fryer and was deep frying steaks for everyone up on the road. Our friend with the Dutch ovens was baking a chocolate cake (which turned out amazing by the way), and another friend made some fabulous baked beans by adding bourbon, bacon, and other ingredients to a giant can of Bush’s which she heated in a cast iron pot over the campfire.

deep fried steaks Hoh-Rainforest 133
Deep fried steaks

Camping on the Hoh River

It was another great evening with amazing food and good company.

 

Day 4:

On Sunday we packed up our campsite and headed back towards Kingston to catch the ferry. We made a quick stop at A Shot in the Dark Espresso stand in Forks for coffee. The coffee was great and came with chocolate espresso beans.

About 45 minutes outside of Kingston we pulled over and stopped for lunch at the Snug Harbor Cafe on Discovery Bay. It was a seafood basket and chowder type of place. I had the oyster sandwich and Paddy had the fish sandwich with a side of coleslaw. Both sandwiches were great but the tempura battered fries were really bland. Service was good–we’d stop here again. It looked like they had a nice outdoor patio and they advertised live music in on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Snug-Harbor-Cafe
Snug Harbor Cafe
Snug-Harbor-Cafe (2)
Snug Harbor Cafe
Snug-Harbor-Cafe (3)
Snug Harbor Cafe
Snug Harbor Cafe fish burger
Fish sandwich with a side of coleslaw
Snug Harbor Cafe oyster sandwich
Oyster sandwich

When you approach Kingston, there is a lane on the right for the ferry, which you need to get into as soon as you see it. You inch through with the other cars until you reach a ferry worker who gives you a ticket, and then you follow the ferry signs through town. This process appears to ensure that people don’t cut into the ferry queue from town. You give your ticket to the ferry toll booth when you get there.

The wait for the ferry wasn’t too bad. We missed the one that left a few minutes after we arrived but made the next one an hour later. It was a nice afternoon for a short ferry ride.

Kingston-Ferry (5)
Cars loading onto the ferry to Edmonds
seagulls Kingston-Ferry (6)
Edmonds-Kingston ferry
seagulls Kingston-Ferry (9)
Edmonds-Kingston ferry

seagulls Kingston-Ferry (8)

I always leave the Olympic National Park wishing we had more time to explore it. There is so much to see in each part of the park. The next time we make it out to the Hoh Rainforest, we’d like to walk the trail at the end of Oil City Road out to the ocean and possibly up the coast a little ways. I love to be out in the Hoh Rainforest any time of the year, it is so peaceful and a bit magical. Rain gear recommended, but the rain isn’t too bad.

 

FreLard, Seattle

“FreLard,” the murky gray area between Fremont and Ballard in Seattle is becoming a destination neighborhood specializing in craft beer and craft meat

 

FreLard: the proverbial “taint” of Ballard and Fremont,  a formerly drab, industrial and residential blur between the two neighborhoods is transforming into it’s own interesting little neighborhood. The main drag of FreLard is Leary Way NW, which runs from Market Street in Ballard all the way to N 36th St in the heart of Fremont. FreLard isn’t an official neighborhood title, but it’s something many Seattleites have called it for years– an accurate way to describe the location of a place when you’re not quite sure which neighborhood it is in. Is it in Ballard or Fremont? FreLard.

Over the last decade, and in the last two years in particular, many very hip new restaurants and nano-breweries have sprouted up in FreLard, adding to the few lonely businesses who have pioneered the area. A resounding theme: craft beer, upscale pub grub, and craft meat, with a down-home, high-quality/low-fuss attitude.

FreLard Map
FreLard Map

 

The largest of the early pioneers to FreLard is definitely Hales Brewery. The brewery started in 1983 in Colville, WA and moved to Seattle in 1995. The food is pretty good, but most people go for the beer and the spacious, comfortable pub that is great for larger groups. They have three event spaces to rent out for private parties, and in the spring they host the Moisture Festival. We’ve never been to the Moisture Festival, but have always wanted to go and have heard nothing but rave reviews. Maybe we’ll make it next year.

Hales Brewery
Hales Brewery
Hales Brewery
Hales Brewery
Hales Brewery beer sampler
Hales Brewery beer sampler

 

Another old standby in FreLard is The Dish, arguably one of the best breakfast spots in North Seattle. There is almost always a line on the weekends, with a sign in clip board tacked up outside the front door so you can put your name on the list.

The Dish Cafe Seattle
The Dish Cafe

The atmosphere in The Dish is bright and cheery, with mismatched coffee mugs and an old style diner breakfast bar. The food is fantastic.

Veggie benedict, The Dish, FreLard Seattle
Veggie benedict at The Dish
Biscuts and gravy at The Dish, FreLard Seattle
Biscuts and gravy at The Dish

 

If the weekend line for The Dish is too long, or you really need a little booze with your breakfast, I hear the dark and dog-friendly Leary Traveler next door does a great brunch from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM on Saturdays and Sundays. We keep meaning to try it out, but we often wake up at 8:00 AM starving on the weekends, and don’t feel like waiting until 10:00. Someday we’ll make it in there. I’ve heard the bloody marys are worth the wait.

 

A bit closer to the Ballard Bridge next to Cash ‘N Carry is Maritime Pacific’s Jolly Roger Taproom. While the focus at the Jolly Roger Taproom is showcasing their very tasty microbrews, we go for the food. It is actually one of our favorite restaurants in Seattle.

Jolly Roger Taproom Seattle
image from http://www.thrillist.com/ballard/jolly-roger-taproom
Jolly Roger Taproom smoked onion rings
Jolly Roger Taproom “stackers” smoked onion rings

They have a regular happy hour and bar menu full of cheap yet unique and delicious pub items, such as smoked jalapeno caesar salads (Paddy’s favorite), smoked onion ring “stackers” with smoked jalapeno tarter sauce, beer battered bacon, and mahi mahi sliders. You can easily eat a very satisfying happy hour dinner there for under $15.

The Jolly Roger Taproom also has a rotating seasonal dinner menu that is even better than the pub snacks. In the fall they usually pay homage to Oktoberfest with German-inspired cuisine, and the rest of the year the menu is seasonal and creative. The prices are higher than the bar menu, but not outrageous–about $16-$22 a plate. The plates are enough on their own to fill you up, and the food is high end and unique enough that we’d put their chef up against any of the fancy big-name chefs in this town.

The secret of their amazing food hasn’t stayed a secret though, and you may find a bit of a wait on Friday and Saturday nights. Trust us, it’s worth it.

The Stoup Brewery FreLard Seattle
The Stoup Brewery

FreLard has also become a mecca for a smattering of new nano-breweries in the last couple of years, most of which have a symbiotic relationship with the local food trucks in the area. They serve beer out of warehouse-style taprooms tucked into residential neighborhood streets, while a food truck sets up camp in front to serve food to the beer drinkers. The food truck doesn’t need a liquor license, and the breweries don’t need a food license. It’s a win-win, and beer drinkers get to sample a different food truck menu on different days of the week.

The Stoup at 1108 NW 52nd St opened in 2013. They have an inside and outside beer garden, and you can check the food truck schedule on their website to see what’s for dinner.

The Stoup Brewery FreLard Seattle
The Stoup Brewery
The Stoup Brewery FreLard Seattle
The Stoup Brewery
The Stoup Brewery FreLard Seattle
Beer samplers at The Stoup Brewery

 

Multiple people have told us to check out Reubens Brews on 5010 14th Ave NW. They just moved to their new larger location this month, two blocks from their original location. This is good news, because their popularity kept their old location so busy that the one time my co-workers and I tried to check it out, we couldn’t even fit in the door to get in line for beer. The beer must be fantastic, we’ll have to give it another try. They are open Monday through Thursday from 3 to 9, and Friday through Sunday from 12 to 9.

Reubens Brews
Reubens Brews original location, overflowing with beer enthusiasts

 

Also in the neighborhood is Popluxe Brewing, another new nano brewery in FreLard at 826 B NW 49th St. We haven’t been there yet and don’t know much about it, but the reviews are good. A friend of mine says they have a nice little yard area to hang out in and often host live music. Food trucks are stationed there on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Popluxe Brewing FreLard Seattle
Popluxe Brewing

Back on Leary Way NW in what looks like an old auto garage is Bad Jimmy’s Brewing. I went to Bad Jimmy’s on a Seattle Cycle Saloon tour with my co-workers and it was my favorite brewery on the tour. They had some really interesting and unique beers that I’ve never had anywhere else, such as their cocoa vanilla porter (delicious!), blood orange honey wheat, and habanero amber.

Bad Jimmys taproom FreLard Seattle
Bad Jimmys taproom image from https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bad-Jimmys-Brewing-Co/200605819975291

Bad-Jimmys-FreLard-Seattle

There is a somewhat decent amount of seating inside for bad weather days, and they encourage people to bring in food from outside. They are right next door to Bourbon and Bones, a new southern food and whiskey restaurant on Leary Way.

Bourbon and Bones Seattle
Bourbon and Bones image from https://www.facebook.com/bourbonandbones

Bourbon and Bones has taken southern food and BBQ up a notch, also serving beer and craft cocktails with a focus on bourbon (if you couldn’t tell from the name). It is good that Bad Jimmy’s has developed a friendly relationship with their next door neighbor by allowing take-out food at their taproom, because Bourbon and Bones has a serious lack of seating for how popular they are. The first time Paddy and I attempted to go there, there was not one seat to be found and we weren’t in the mood to stand outside in the rain waiting for someone to leave. We decided to try again a couple months ago, and managed to snag two bar stools just as a couple people were leaving.

Bourbon and Bones Seattle
Bourbon and Bones whiskey bar. Image from https://www.facebook.com/bourbonandbones

bourbon-and-bones

I had the fried chicken with collard greens and mac and cheese, and Paddy had the ribs with collards and mac and cheese, and we shared a side of hush puppies. Food was served on a metal lunch tray, and came with two slices of white bread which can pretty much be purposed as edible napkins for all the sauce. A few different house-made BBQ sauces were on the bar and all the tables as condiments, and they were all delicious.

The fried chicken was excellent, and Paddy really enjoyed his ribs. The collards were smoky and the mac and cheese was soupy. It was a nice contrast to dried out mac and cheese found at many southern restaurants in town, and the flavor was nice and cheesy. We didn’t have room for dessert, but there were some ridiculously amazing cakes and pies behind the bar waiting to be served, including a maple bacon cake that I kind of wished I’d gotten a slice of to go.

bourbon and bones fried chicken
Fried chicken, mac and cheese, collard greens, and hush puppies at Bourbon and Bones
bourbon and bones ribs
Ribs, collards, and mac and cheese at Bourbon and Bones

The only things that make us hesitant to make Bourbon and Bones a new regular spot are the constant battle for a seat and the slightly high prices. The counter is right at the front door, so it is easy to get take out to go. We might try getting some to-go dinner to have along with beer at Bad Jimmy’s in their taproom next time.

 

Last month, another new BBQ joint brazenly opened up in FreLard a block down the street from Bourbon and Bones on Leary Way NW, called Drunky’s Two Shoe BBQ. While they may serve a similar cuisine to Bourbon and Bones, the theme and menu focus are very different.

Drunky's Two Shoe BBQ Seattle
image from https://www.facebook.com/pages/Drunkys-Two-Shoe-BBQ/264073113645226

At Drunky’s, it’s all about the slow-smoked meat. It is simple, affordable, and cooked with love. You can smell it cooking all the way into Fremont in the afternoons and it smells amazing. You won’t find any hush puppies, maple bourbon cake, or collard greens; instead there are simple, Texas-style staples like baked beans, coleslaw, and potato salad. Paddy tried the brisket dinner and I had the half chicken. The meat was fall-off-the-bone tender and the flavor was incredible. The potato salad and coleslaw weren’t anything to write home about, but they were good. Just like mom used to make. The baked beans however were fabulous and flavorful–a far cry from a can of Bush’s.

Smoking meat at Drunkys Two Shoe BBQ Seattle
Smoking meat at Drunky’s Two Shoe BBQ image from https://www.facebook.com/pages/Drunkys-Two-Shoe-BBQ/264073113645226
Drunkys Two Shoe BBQ patio
Drunkys Two Shoe BBQ patio. Image from https://www.facebook.com/pages/Drunkys-Two-Shoe-BBQ/264073113645226

drunkys two shoe bbq menu frelard

drunkys two shoe bbq chicken frelard
Drunky’s BBQ chicken plate with potato salad and baked beans
drunkys two shoe bbq brisket frelard
Drunky’s BBQ brisket plate with baked beans and coleslaw

There is more seating at Drunky’s than at Bourbon and Bones, and a great patio with astro turf and string lights to set the back-country mood. The owners put a lot of attention to detail into the restaurant itself: Tractor seats at the bar, velvet Elvis paintings and taxidermy, reclaimed rustic wood walls and a chandelier made out of chainsaws. Food is served on metal camping plates with baked beans in a matching camping mug. Given the awesome food, low prices, and fabulous patio, we may be back a few times this summer.

drunkys two shoe bbq frelard
Drunky’s Two Shoe BBQ
Drunky's Two Shoe BBQ frelard
Drunky’s Two Shoe BBQ
Drunky's Two Shoe BBQ frelard
Drunky’s Two Shoe BBQ inside seating
Drunkys Two Shoe BBQ chainsaw chandalier
Drunkys Two Shoe BBQ chainsaw chandalier

 

A little ways west down Leary Way NW from Drunky’s and Bourbon and Bones (across from the new BevMo) is yet another new western Americana-themed restaurant called Giddy-Up Burgers and Greens. Instead of BBQ, the focus is on gourmet burgers and a gourmet salad bar.

Giddy up burgers and greens frelard seattle
Giddy-Up Burgers and Greens
Giddy-Up Burgers and Greens Frelard Seattle
Giddy-Up Burgers and Greens

The “greens” are what sets this place apart. You can order hand cut fries or haystack fried onions, but they are an afterthought. Instead of the usual greasy fried sides, you can walk in, grab a bowl at the salad bar, fill it with whatever you want and however big you want, and pay for it by the pound at the counter when you order your burger. Or don’t order a burger–just have a salad. There were a variety of pickled veggies and a curry chicken salad, several types of cheese, and two types of greens in addition to all the usual salad bar stuff.

Giddy-Up Burgers and Greens salad bar Frelard Seattle
Giddy-Up Burgers and Greens salad bar
Giddy-Up Burgers and Greens salad bar
Giddy-Up Burgers and Greens salad bar
Giddy-Up Burgers and Greens catch burger frelard seattle
“The Catch” burger at Giddy-Up Burgers and Greens
Giddy-Up Burgers and Greens haystack onions
Giddy-Up Burgers and Greens haystack onions

We’ve been twice, the first time I got the haystack onions as a side and while they were tasty, there wasn’t much to them. Kind of like a fresh version of the french fried onions you put on a green bean casserole. The second time we went I did the salad bar and it was excellent. The pickled onions I added to the salad were fantastic. Both times I got The Catch burger (I don’t eat beef) and it was very good. It was a house made cod patty instead of the usual breaded and fried pre-fab piece of cod, which was refreshing. Paddy had a different beef burger each time (sorry, I don’t remember which ones) and he said they were both great. They also have a chicken sandwich and a white bean and quinoa burger which I have yet to try.

Giddy-Up has a separate room area off the main area that can be rented for private parties, and in the summer is converted to an open-air dining area. Either way, there is usually plenty of space to find a seat.

FreLard used to be an area we’d just past through on the way to either Ballard or Fremont, but now it’s a place we go on purpose. There is more parking available than in Fremont and Ballard, and there are now several great restaurants to choose from, and more are most likely on the way. I just heard of a Korean restaurant that opened last year just off of Leary as well called Tray Kitchen which we will be checking out soon. FreLard–check it out!

Whale Watching in the San Juan Islands

Whale watching in the San Juan Islands, WA with Legacy Charters. A day tour with fantastic guides, lots of wildlife, and a rare humpback whale sighting

Orca whales are one of the main attractions of the San Juan Islands in Washington. Every year, thousands of tourists flock to the islands and go on whale watch tours in hopes of catching a glimpse of these beautiful and often playful creatures in the wild. Paddy and I had been out whale watching in the San Juan Islands on a small boat whale watch tour about 10 years ago, and it was an amazing experience to see them so close. A huge male swam right under the boat, humbling us with a close look at his enormous size.

Summer is the peak time for whale watching in the San Juan Islands. Aside from having the best weather of the year, in summer the salmon come through the San Juans on their way to the Frazier River to spawn, increasing the food supply in the area for the southern resident orcas. Transient and resident orcas can be seen year round, but the increased population of orcas in the summer increases the chances of a sighting, and is usually the best time to go whale watching.

Photo from www.legacycharters.org
Photo from www.legacycharters.org

I was invited out on a whale watch tour in the spring with a good friend of mine, Rachel, and her husband Spencer with their tour company, Legacy Charters. Most whale watch tours only operate in the summer, but Legacy Charters operates all year long. They see plenty of orcas and wildlife in the winter as well as summer. Even if you don’t get to see whales, there are lots of other birds and marine animals to see, as well as the beautiful island scenery that you won’t see on a ferry. Tours last about 2.5 to 3 hours.

Legacy Charters tour boat
Legacy Charters tour boat

It was April, and rain was predicted all day. In addition, no Orca whales had been sighted in several days. While whales are the main attraction, I was hopeful that we might catch a glimpse of some other wildlife such as porpoises, harbor seals, bald eagles, and sea lions.

I met up with Rachel and Spencer at Snug Harbor, a quiet little harbor with a resort on the north west side of San Juan Island. Legacy Charter’s tours depart from the west side of the island, which is where the whales are usually sighted. It ended up being a magical afternoon. The sun came out (contrary to the dreary weather report), and the water was as calm as it could possibly get. I took my motion sickness medicine just in case, and we set out.

**If you suffer from seasickness, check out my post on motion sickness prevention.

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Snug Harbor, San Juan Island
Captain Spencer and Rachel
Captain Spencer and Rachel

As we departed, naturalist Heather showed us some miniature model whales and gave a quick presentation on the types of whales that can be seen in Puget Sound, and a little bit about each of them.

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The types of whales you can find in Puget Sound  and the Salish Sea are the orca whale, gray whale, minke whale, and the humpback whale. The humpback whales spend the winter in warmer waters and only migrate to Puget Sound in the summer season. Humpback whale sightings are rare, but Rachel and Spencer had word that “Big Mama,” a female humpback who summers in the San Juans, was back earlier than usual and making an appearance that day in the waters just over the Canadian border.

Hopeful, we sped across the calm water to the area Big Mama was reportedly swimming. The sun was warm, but I was glad I had brought a hat and hooded rain coat, as the wind was cold while we traveled.

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whale watching in the San Juan Islands: sparkling afternoon sea
Captain Spencer's dashboard crab
Captain Spencer’s dashboard crab

It wasn’t too long before we reached the area where Big Mama had been reported. Captain Spencer slowed the engine, and we waited. Within several minutes we saw her surface and blow water from her blowhole. Everyone was excited.

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whale watching in the San Juan Islands: Big Mama the humpback whale

Spencer got a little closer, still keeping a safe distance. The fine for getting too close to a whale is pretty steep, and it is important to give the animals plenty of space for their safety. We watched her surface every few minutes for a little while, as she glided around in the water.

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whale watching in the San Juan Islands: Big Mama the humpback whale
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whale watching in the San Juan Islands: Big Mama the humpback whale
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whale watching in the San Juan Islands: Rachel, tour guide extraordinaire
Cloud on the sea
Cloud reflection on the tranquil sea

At one point we were all staring off the side of the boat, waiting for Big Mama to come up again, and she seemed to be down a little longer than usual. Suddenly she surfaced right near the back of the boat, spouting water from her blow hole and startling us all. It was so exciting to see her so close. She must have been a bit curious about our boat. Rachel and Spencer were really excited–they said they’ve never seen a humpback that close before in all their tours whale watching in the San Juan Islands.

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whale watching in the San Juan Islands: Big Mama the humpback whale
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whale watching in the San Juan Islands: Big Mama the humpback whale

We watched her for a bit longer, she swam further away but I managed a good zoom shot of her tail on one of the few times she did a deep dive and showed it to us.

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whale watching in the San Juan Islands: Big Mama the humpback whale

Seeing Big Mama was definitely the highlight of the trip, but Captain Spencer was ready to see what other kinds of wild life we could find before the tour was over. We saw a couple of porpoises from a distance, but they were pretty far away. We passed a couple bald eagles sitting in the setting sun on the hills and trees of the islands we passed.

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Captain Spencer
The islands
Evening sun on the islands

Pretty soon we reached what Captain Spencer called a “sea lion bachelor party” on Spieden Island. It was a congregation of stoic and blubbery steller sea lion males, sunning themselves proudly on the rocks while another group swam leisurely just off the shore. Rachel said they do this a lot, leave all the females and have some guy time. They were noisy, grunting and barking at each other over who got which spots on the rocks.

Stellar sea lions
Steller sea lions
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Steller sea lions
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Steller sea lions

As we got closer to the rock, a horrendous smell wafted through the air. I asked Rachel if they were farting. “No,” she said. “That’s their breath.” Fortunately, the breeze shifted.

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Steller sea lion bachelor party
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Steller sea lions
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Steller sea lions
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Steller sea lions
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Look at this handsome macho hunk of burnin’ love

We watched the sea lions for a bit. They were aware of us, but seemed more interested in barking at each other.

We then continued back towards San Juan, passing two separate rocky outcroppings full of harbor seals sunning themselves, or as Captain Spencer calls them, “rock sausages.” They reminded me of our cats on a warm summer day on the patio.

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Harbor seals
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Harbor seals
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Harbor seals
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Harbor seals

They are very sausage-like, but the nickname also comes from the harbor seal being a favorite food for transient orcas. Resident orcas only eat salmon, while the transient orcas eat seals, porpoises, sea lions, and other marine mammals.

I asked Spencer and Rachel why the two groups of whales eat different cuisine. Spencer said it was cultural, kind of like how people in China eat rice, and people in Italy eat pasta. The two groups of orcas don’t interact with each other at all. Spencer has seen resident and transient pods swim right by each other with no interaction. No interbreeding has ever been documented. It is almost like they are a separate species. Aside from having separate cultures, biologists have also noted different “languages” between the two groups. Spencer says he hears a difference in the calls of the resident whales vs the transients.

Unfortunately the decline in Chinook salmon in Puget Sound is causing a decline in the southern resident orca population. The NOAA has established a Chinook salmon recovery plan, but progress has been slow-going. Meanwhile, transient populations (marine mammal-eating) seem to be increasing. You can find out more about the Southern Resident Killer Whale Chinook Salmon Initiative and donate to help here.

The tour ended at sunset, and it was a great time. I’d recommend Legacy Charters for whale watching in the San Juan Islands over many other tour groups due to the small boat experience. Going in a small boat with a maximum of around six passengers gives you a more intimate experience with the whales, and an opportunity to ask questions and learn more from the guides.  Also, the large boat tours leave out of Friday Harbor on the east side of San Juan Island, and the whales are normally seen on the west side. Leaving from the west side at Snug Harbor gives you more tour time and more wildlife viewing opportunities. I would strongly recommend bringing a car to San Juan Island, however if you don’t have a car with you Legacy Charters can help arrange transportation from Friday Harbor to Snug Harbor and back.

Legacy Charters crew: (left to right) Naturalist Heather, Captain Spencer, and Rachel
Legacy Charters crew: (left to right) Naturalist Heather, Captain Spencer, and Rachel

I would also recommend a visit to the Whale Museum in Friday Harbor before you go whale watching in the San Juan Islands if time allows. It is a great museum with tons of information on the whales in the area and will help you understand more about these beautiful creatures before you see them in the wild.

Also, don’t forget to make your ferry reservations in advance!

https://secureapps.wsdot.wa.gov/Ferries/Reservations/Vehicle/default.aspx

 

Our Most Romantic Getaways

Our most romantic getaways: In honor of Valentine’s Day we’d like to share our most romantic trips, and what we think makes a great couples’ getaway

 

I’ll try to keep the cheese-factor to a minimum on this post. But Valentine’s Day is this week, and I thought I’d share our most romantic vacations and what made them romantic. Every couple needs getaways. A chance to leave your day-to-day life, have a new adventure together, and focus on quality time with each other without the stress and distractions of home and work. Here are our best romantic getaways to give you some ideas to plan yours:

1. Camping at Sol Duc, Olympic National Park

Camping at Sol Duc Campground Olympic National Park
Camping at Sol Duc Campground

So, this is our number one most romantic getaway because we got engaged on this trip. However, it was a really perfect romantic weekend in general and I couldn’t have asked for a better engagement.

Sol Duc is deep within Olympic National Park, many miles from any civilization of any kind. We got kind of a late start getting the ferry over there in the afternoon, and lucked out with one of the last open camp sites (the campground is first come, first served). We were originally there to celebrate our 7 year dating anniversary.

It was July, and the weather was perfect. We built a campfire, had hot dogs and baked beans and champagne for dinner.

romantic getaways Sol Duc Campground Olympic National Park
Paddy getting the campfire going
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Popping open the champagne and plastic coffee mugs

The next day we hiked Sol Duc Falls and the appropriately titled “Lover’s Lane” trail through the rainforest. There were a lot of people at the falls, but we only saw one other couple the entire time we were on the 6 mile Lover’s Lane trail that looped back to the campground. It was a gorgeous hike, and so peaceful in the rainforest. We pretty much had the forest all to ourselves.

Sol Duc Falls Olympic National Park romantic getaways
Sol Duc Falls
Lover's Lane trail Olympic National Park romantic getaways
Lover’s Lane trail

When we got back to the campground, we relaxed in the tent awhile after the long hike and then made dinner again and sat around the campfire watching the stars. Paddy got down on one knee by the campfire and proposed with an Irish claddagh ring that he had spontaneously purchased at the Sol Duc gift shop the day before. It was a total surprise and one of the best days of my life.

Our gift shop engagement rings
Our gift shop engagement rings

Aside from our engagement, what made this trip romantic was the peacefulness of the forest and campground, being so far from civilization (aside from the nearby campground store and Sol Duc Hot Springs cabin resort), and spending some alone time hiking in the rainforest with barely anyone else around. We are considering going back for our 5 year wedding anniversary this summer.

**Note: Sol Duc is first come-first served and very popular in the summer. On weekends in July and August arriving Thursday night or early Friday morning is recommended to get a camp spot. The ranger at the entrance station at the beginning of the road to Sol Duc can give you an idea of how many spots are left before you drive all the way down there. Rain gear highly recommended at any time of the year.

2. Our honeymoon in Tahiti and French Polynesia

Obviously, our honeymoon is going to be on this list. I have a couple more detailed posts about this trip if you are considering visiting French Polynesia, so I will keep this short.

Our honeymoon was full of adventure on the islands of Tahiti, Taha’a, and Bora Bora. Of all the adventures we had, the most romantic were definitely the little beach bungalow on the tiny motu island off of Taha’a, and the overwater bungalow at the Intercontinental Resort in Bora Bora.

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On a boat outside the overwater bungalows at the Intercontinental Bora Bora. Photo by Bora Bora Photo Lagoon
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Snorkeling in Bora Bora. Photo by Bora Bora photo lagoon
Our overwater bungalow at the Intercontinental Bora Bora honeymoon
Our overwater bungalow at the Intercontinental Bora Bora

While the overwater bungalow in Bora Bora was phenomenal and what we looked forward to the most while planning our honeymoon, I think that the romance factor was actually a bit higher in the tiny beach bungalow on the Taha’a motu. It was very secluded, with only (9?) bungalows, gourmet meals every night cooked by the French couple who owned the place, and a lovely European continental breakfast each morning. We read books, kayaked around the lagoon, swam in the lagoon right in front of our bungalow, took a tour to the main island of Taha’a for the day, and spent a good amount of time just sitting and watching the sea from our porch.

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Remote Robinson Crusoe experience on the Taha’a motu
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honeymoon champagne waiting for us on our porch at arrival
Our bungalow on the Tahaa motu Tahiti honeymoon romantic getaways
Our bungalow on the Taha’a motu
Our bungalow on the Taha'a motu Tahiti honeymoon romantic getaways
Our bungalow on the Taha’a motu
Tahiti honeymoon romantic getaways
Nothing to listen to at night but the lapping waves and the chirping geckos.

It was an amazing honeymoon, and we couldn’t have asked for anything better.

 

3. Tulum, Mexico

We spent a week in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico shortly after we got engaged in 2009. It was September, and scorching hot. We wouldn’t go back in September again. However, because it was the low season there were no crowds in Isla Mujeres (the island we spent three nights on), or in Tulum.

Tulum was the most romantic, for sure. We stayed in a tiny rustic bungalow that had no electricity in the day time, right on the best beach we’ve ever been to. The sand was like powdered sugar and the water was electric blue. No coral in the water made for soft sand and perfect swimming. The best part: most of the time we had this beach entirely to ourselves.

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Tulum beach
romantic getaways secluded Tulum beach Mexico
Relaxing at Tulum Beach near our bungalow
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Tulum Beach
Our bungalow on Tulum beach romantic getaways
Our bungalow on Tulum beach
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Solitude in Tulum on an evening beach stroll

We ate dinner most nights at the little on-site restaurant, where the Argentinian owner cooked us whatever he got fresh that day. It was fantastic. We’ve been aching to go back, but it appears that this place is no longer in business. There are many other little places like it on Tulum Beach though, so I’m sure we’ll find somewhere else great. Someday, but not again in September.

 

4. Cannon Beach, Oregon

Cannon Beach is one of our all-time favorite winter romantic getaways. We’ve never gone in the summer–high prices and kids and crowds keep us at bay. We’re a bit more into the woods and mountains and rainforest in the summer.

Aside from the stunningly beautiful beach, there are quite a few good restaurants and little shops all within walking distance of most hotels. Seaside is just a short drive away, as are other locations on the coast for day tripping.

Cannon Beach, Oregon
Cannon Beach, Oregon

Our favorite hotel is the Hallmark Inn, and our favorite room type is the Southwest View King with a fireplace and deck with a direct view of Haystack Rock. You can hear the ocean at night even with the deck door closed, staying cozy warm by the fireplace. There are other rooms available as well with views, some with jacuzzi tubs.

Cannon Beach, Oregon
Cannon Beach, Oregon

Our favorite restaurant there for a nice, romantic gourmet meal is Newmans at 988. The food and service are phenomenal, and the restaurant is located in an old house. We’ve had a couple romantic getaways at Cannon Beach, it’s one of our all-time favorite spots.

 

I think that all of our getaways and adventures include “romance” but the above four are the top four romantic adventures in our memories. I think the ingredients to great romantic getaways are solitude/alone time, a beautiful natural setting, and an element of adventure. After 13 years together, we both believe that adventure and learning and growing together is one of the cornerstones of a great relationship. You don’t have to go to Morocco or spend a fortune to have an adventure together. Adventures could include a dance class, a great hike, or trying Ethiopian food for the first time. Take time away from daily life, make time for each other, and have some fun.

Happy Valentine’s Day!